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Allergy Skin (Scratch) Testing
When a patient enters our office with a runny, congested nose and itchy, irritated eyes, the symptoms are often blamed on hay fever. And while, with hay fever there is no fever... and no hay...it is usually an allergy to some substance that is causing the patient's discomfort.
Allergy testing is performed to find out whether or not a patient has allergies. You may be wondering who can be tested? Adults and children can but children must be 6 months or older. Adult and pediatric testing are different. But to give you a general idea about allergy testing, there are two parts.
During the first part called scratch or prick test, drops of allergy serum are applied to the back of the patient. The skin is scratched slightly with a disposable device and the skin test is read within fifteen to twenty minutes. In case of a positive reaction, the skin surrounding the allergen at fault will turn pink, and a small bump will appear. It looks much like a mosquito bite, and may itch like one for a relatively short period of time. This response to the allergen mimics the reaction that occurs in the nose and bronchial lining. A positive scratch test indicates a high degree of allergies.
The second part of the allergy test is called an intradermal test. It is performed only to these allergens that are not reacting on scratch testing. A small amount of allergy extract is injected under the skin and the test is read after fifteen to twenty minutes. A positive reaction will appear if there is redness or a small bump on the application.
Skin tests are used to detect substances breathed in (aeroallergens) such as mold, dust and pollen; foods, such as fish, eggs, milk or wheat; and stinging insects. Skin testing has been proven to be most effective in detecting aeroallergens.
Patients must refrain from taking antihistamines and/or decongestants for two days (or 48 hours) prior to skin testing (otherwise the results will not show up).
RAST testing is a blood test, which is a little more painful than scratch testing, where the patient’s blood is measured against specific antibodies, such as environmental allergens or foods. If the RAST test shows positive reactions, the patient is frequently referred to our office for more accurate testing using scratch intradermal testing. This is particularly important in case the patient is taking immunotherapy in order to determine exactly what kind of allergy serum to use to build up the immunity of the patient.
Quick Links to Allergy and Asthma Non-Profit Organizations
The information provided in this Web site is not intended to replace consultation with your physician.
Entire contents © 2016 Ulrich O. Ringwald, M.D. Reproduction in whole or in part without
express written permission is prohibited.