Your daughter pets a friend’s bunny, and you notice that she has a rash on her arm. Your son eats a bite of shrimp dip, later complaining of a scratchy throat. Are these signs of an allergy?
Maybe, but maybe not. Many common allergy symptoms can also be symptoms of a wide range of other conditions. If you suspect allergies, talk to your child’s doctor about allergy testing. This is the only definitive way to diagnose environmental and food allergies.
Types of Allergy Testing
Most doctors begin with a skin test, which involves scratching the skin with a small amount of the allergen. If the area becomes red and swollen, the test is considered to be positive. The test takes just a few minutes, allowing the doctor to identify the allergy during a single office visit. Skin testing is often sufficient for environmental allergens, such as reactions to pollen, though it is less conclusive for food allergies.
In some cases, blood tests are recommended. Some children show no reaction to the skin prick test, but actually do have a food allergy. If symptoms have been noticed in connection with a particular food, blood testing can be performed to diagnose the allergy. The blood test looks for IgE, a type of immunoglobulin related to allergic reactions.
Finally, there is another option for food allergy testing. However, this one is considered riskier, and should only be performed while in the doctor’s office. Known as a challenge test, it involves feeding small amounts of the suspected allergen to your child and watching for a reaction. The objective is to confirm the absence of a food allergy. However, in giving your child a suspected allergen, you risk prompting a dangerous allergic reaction. During the challenge test, your child must be monitored closely for any sign of a negative reaction. If no reaction occurs, the suspected allergen has been ruled out.
Has your child undergone any testing for food allergies?