With Spring’s arrival, many people have been suffering from seasonal allergies. I remember the days where my mom wouldn’t buy our school pictures in the spring because it inevitably featured me with red, swollen, runny eyes (haha sorry mom!). As someone who has grown up with seasonal, food, and medication allergies (the trifecta, if you will), I decided to undergo allergy testing this year to verify what exactly is causing me to have symptoms.
Allergies are a tricky thing. Not only can you grow out of previous allergies, but you can develop new ones over the span of your lifetime. Allergies can also range from mild to life-threatening, making it even more important to know your allergies so that you can take the necessary life-saving precautions (like carrying an epi-pen).
Here are 3 things you should know before allergy testing:
Types of Testing
There are multiple types of tests that can be administered to diagnose allergies. The first is an allergy blood test, which involves a blood sample that is analyzed for specific antibodies. Another type of allergy testing is a skin test. This can be done as a prick or intradermally. In addition, an oral challenge can be completed to verify whether eating a certain type of food causes a reaction. It is important to complete this test in the doctor’s office so that you can be treated quickly if you start experiencing a reaction.
My allergy testing consisted of both the skin test and the oral challenge. The healthcare professional created a grid on my back (and at later date, my arms) and they did a battery of pricks and even used a needle to intradermally test for a penicillin allergy. Neither test was painful to receive (and I have never been squeamish about needles). It was actually pretty cool to watch the area change as my body responded to the allergens. The oral challenge was administered to assess my peanut allergy. Though the pricks came back fine, the oral challenge is necessary for an allergy that can have pretty severe consequences. To complete the test, I was given a small amount of peanut butter and checked on to see if I had a reaction. Once I passed that test, I was given a spoonful of peanut butter and asked to wait again. Let’s just say the spoonful didn’t go well, and I was immediately administered drugs to stop a reaction, hence the importance of completing this challenge in the office (and not on your own!).
It will itch…a lot
Oh man. I knew that there would be some itching involved, but I had no idea that the reaction could last so long!! My back had huge welts and was still constantly itching for more than a WEEK after the initial pricks. Yes, this was even after they slathered me with anti-itch cream and I was allowed to take anti-histamines again. I’m getting itchy just writing about it! Basically, I had some pretty strong reactions to several of the allergens being tested.
Plan for Downtime
One thing that I wished that I knew on the first round of testing was the amount of downtime involved (thank goodness for phones!). Some of the reactions take time to develop, so you are left in the room with instructions to not touch or scratch the areas being tested. The second time around, I was more aware of this and was able to bring a book and my laptop to get some work done while I waited.
Allergy education is so important and can be the difference between life and death for many people. Please do what you can to make sure that you are aware of potential allergens in your loved one’s lives (or at least offer a “bless you” on their thousandth sneeze).