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Patient education: Allergy skin testing (The Basics)

Patient education: Allergy skin testing (The Basics)

What is allergy skin testing? — Allergy skin testing is testing that helps your doctor figure out what you are allergic to.

What happens during skin allergy testing? — Doctors use 2 main types of allergy skin tests. The most common is called a skin prick test. The doctor puts a drop of the substance you might be allergic to on your skin and makes a tiny prick through the drop into your skin. If you are allergic to any of the substances, itchy red bumps usually show up within 15 to 20 minutes. The bumps go away within an hour or so.

If your skin does not turn red and bumpy during the skin prick test, your doctor might still think you could be allergic to the substance. They might inject a tiny amount of the substance under your skin. This is called an "intradermal" test. Intradermal tests are slightly better at showing an allergy because more of the test substance gets into the skin. Because this is a stronger type of test, it can sometimes cause allergic reactions, and it is not done for some types of allergies, such as food allergies.

The pricks or injections are done on your arms and sometimes on the upper part of your back. This is not painful, but small children might find it upsetting. You might get tested for a few different substances at the same time.

Why do I need allergy skin testing? — Your doctor might recommend allergy skin testing if you have symptoms that seem to be caused by an allergy. The table shows common types of allergies and their symptoms (table 1).

If you know exactly what is causing your allergies, you can avoid those substances and choose the best treatment.

How do I prepare for allergy skin testing? — Your doctor might tell you to stop taking certain medicines (such as allergy medicines) for up to 1 week before you get an allergy skin test. This is because some medicines can block the skin test reaction, making the test results appear normal even if you actually do have an allergy.

More on this topic

Patient education: Environmental allergies in adults (The Basics)
Patient education: Food allergy (The Basics)
Patient education: Insect allergy (The Basics)
Patient education: Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (The Basics)
Patient education: Anaphylaxis (The Basics)
Patient education: How to use an epinephrine autoinjector (The Basics)
Patient education: Environmental allergies in children (The Basics)
Patient education: Contrast allergy (The Basics)
Patient education: Sulfa drug allergy (The Basics)
Patient education: Penicillin allergy (The Basics)

Patient education: Allergic rhinitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Trigger avoidance in allergic rhinitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Allergic conjunctivitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Food allergy symptoms and diagnosis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Food allergen avoidance (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Allergy to penicillin and related antibiotics (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Contact dermatitis (including latex dermatitis) (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Using an epinephrine autoinjector (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
Disclaimer: This generalized information is a limited summary of diagnosis, treatment, and/or medication information. It is not meant to be comprehensive and should be used as a tool to help the user understand and/or assess potential diagnostic and treatment options. It does NOT include all information about conditions, treatments, medications, side effects, or risks that may apply to a specific patient. It is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for the medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of a health care provider based on the health care provider's examination and assessment of a patient's specific and unique circumstances. Patients must speak with a health care provider for complete information about their health, medical questions, and treatment options, including any risks or benefits regarding use of medications. This information does not endorse any treatments or medications as safe, effective, or approved for treating a specific patient. UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates disclaim any warranty or liability relating to this information or the use thereof. The use of this information is governed by the Terms of Use, available at https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/know/clinical-effectiveness-terms. 2024© UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates and/or licensors. All rights reserved.
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