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An allergy skin test is used to help your physician at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center determine whether you have allergies and what type of allergy you may have by looking for reactions to allergens that are placed on your skin. By determining what’s triggering your allergy symptoms, the test makes it easier for you and your doctor to determine the right treatment.

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What is an Allergy Skin Test?

An allergy skin test is one type of allergy test that’s designed to help identify various potential allergens, including contact, airborne, and food-related allergens.

There are three different types of skin tests, including scratch or skin prick tests, intradermal, and patch tests.

Skin prick test

allergy skin test on the back

Sometimes called a scratch test, this is the most used type of allergy test. It’s convenient, easy to perform, and fast. It involves the application of an allergen extract to the skin by pricking the skin and placing the allergen on the scratched area, and then seeing what kind of reaction you have.

Intradermal skin test

allergy skin test on arm

For this test, the allergen is injected just beneath the skin. This test is more sensitive than the skin prick test and it may be done if the skin prick test is negative, but you still have allergy symptoms.

Patch test

allergy skin test on a patient's back

Another type of skin test is the patch test. This involves placing a tiny amount of an allergen on the skin and then covering that spot with a bandage. The bandages or patches are left in place for 48-72 hours, and then the skin is examined when you return to the office.

When are Allergy Skin Tests Used?

Skin tests are usually the first option used to help diagnose allergies. Your doctor may order an allergy skin test if you have symptoms of an allergy. Allergy symptoms include:

  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath

Pros and Cons of Allergy Skin Tests

Just like any kind of medical procedure, an allergy skin test does have some pros and cons to consider.

The benefits of allergy skin test are that:

  • Skin tests are cheaper than blood allergy tests
  • Skin tests like the skin prick test and the transdermal test offer fast results
  • Allergy skin tests are easy to conduct, fast, and noninvasive

On the other hand, the cons include:

  • Multiple factors can throw off the results of a skin allergy test
  • There is the potential for a severe reaction
  • Some medications or skin conditions may affect the results of the test

Some types of medicines, such as antihistamines and antidepressants, may interfere with a skin allergy test. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking these medicines before your test.

doctor looking at skin test results

Allergy Skin Test Results

Both skin prick and intradermal test results are visible within just 15-20 minutes, while patch tests take longer. Even if you do have a reaction to an allergy skin test, it’s important to remember that this test – on its own – doesn’t indicate that you’re allergic to that substance. Positive tests also cannot predict how severe an allergic reaction may be.

Usually, negative tests indicate that you aren’t allergic to specific allergens. However, they’re not always accurate and your allergist may want to do additional tests if you have allergy symptoms.

No matter the test results, your physician will use those results along with your medical history to come to a diagnosis.

What to Expect During an Allergy Skin Test

An allergy skin test is usually done in your doctor’s office and administered by a nurse, although a doctor will interpret the test results. Usually, it takes about 20 to 40 minutes to complete the tests.

The most common type of allergy skin test, the skin prick test or scratch test, involves using a tiny tool that barely penetrates the surface of your skin. The test isn’t painful and you won’t feel more than a tiny prick. The allergen extract is then placed on the area that’s been scratched, and every text site is marked to identify each allergen that’s being tested.

Around 15 minutes after administering the skin pricks, a nurse will look at your skin for any signs of an allergic reaction. If an itchy, raised, red bump appears, you could be allergic to that allergen. The nurse will record the size of the bump.

Why Choose Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center

At Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, our entire team specializes in providing excellent care to patients dealing with allergies. Since 1952, we’ve proudly served the Charlotte community, offering the best service to our patients with allergies and asthma. Not only are our physicians experienced and highly-trained, but they’re also supported by a team of medical professionals who specialize in this field, as well.

Do you think you may have allergies? If so, it’s important to be treated. Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center offers the testing needed to discover what allergens may be behind your symptoms. Schedule your appointment today by calling 704-372-7900.

Skin Allergy Test FAQs

How much do allergy skin tests cost?

The average cost of skin allergy tests varies. It is important to touch base with your allergy specialist and your insurance company to go over all costs before testing is started. Keep in mind, the cost of testing varies based on multiple factors, including the region you live in and the physician you use. In many cases the test may be paid by your health insurance, but it is always important to check your individual coverage.

How accurate are allergy skin tests?

Skin tests are usually accurate but sometimes may indicate an allergy when there is not one. In other cases, a false-negative may occur. This is why your doctor will look at test results as well as your clinical history for a diagnosis. If your doctor is worried about a false negative or positive, additional testing may be done.

Can I do an allergy skin test at home?

Yes, you can do an allergy skin test at home. Just remember, the results of at-home tests can be unreliable. The results of a home test are no substitute for seeing a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies.

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