The only way to treat your allergy symptoms is to determine exactly what is causing them. This is done through a series of allergy tests.
Skin Prick Testing
Skin tests are the preferred allergy test because they are safe, inexpensive and offer the most accurate results.
In prick testing, several drops of solution containing the suspected allergen are placed on the surface of the skin, usually the forearm or back, and allowed to penetrate. A needle is used to prick or scratch the skin where the drops are placed.
If your body is allergic to this substance, the immune system will produce molecules called immunoglobulin E. The result is swelling and redness on the skin.
Prick testing is safe and reliable. Other than a little discomfort, swelling or itching, there are no side effects to worry about. The procedure is performed in-office and should take no longer than 20 to 40 minutes. It is most often used to test for allergies to pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander and food.
Allergens that did not produce a reaction during the skin prick test will be tested with an intradermal test. An intradermal wheal, or bleb, is injected directly under the top layer of skin. After 15 minutes any reactions are measured and classified as either positive or negative.
A blood test is used to measure how much of an allergen-specific antibody, called immunoglobulin E (IgE), is in your blood. The more allergen specific IgE in your blood, the more likely you are to be allergic.
The most common blood test is a radioallergosorbent (RAST) test. It screens for common allergy triggers such as pollen, mold, dust mites and pet dander. RAST is the preferred testing method for infants and children. It is less expensive and results take longer since an outside lab is involved.
Blood tests are typically used to confirm the results of a skin test; they may also be used in lieu of skin tests if a serious allergy makes skin testing unsafe.
Pulmonary Function Tests
Pulmonary function tests are used to determine how well your lungs are working. They are typically completed in addition to allergy tests. The three main tests are spirometry, plethysmography and diffusion capacity. Spirometry measures the amount of air you breathe in and out by breathing into a machine. Plethysmography measures your lung volume, or the amount of gas in your lungs by having you stand in a small booth and breathe into a mouthpiece. The diffusion capacity test evaluates how well the small air sacks within your lungs work by having you breathe in certain gases and breathing out into a machine.
Call Albany ENT & Allergy Services at (518) 701-2085 for more information or to schedule an appointment.