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What is Food Allergy Testing?

Food allergy testing is exactly what it sounds like – a test that is administered to gauge an individual’s allergic reaction to certain foods. There are multiple different types of tests that an allergist may recommend including a skin test, a blood test or a food challenge.

Learn more about common food allergies and the different tests to confirm an allergy.

Common Food Allergens

A food allergy is when the body’s immune system has a reaction after eating a specific food. The most common food allergies include:

  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Grains
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

How Does Food Allergy Testing Work?

There are three primary types of food allergy tests: a skin test, a blood test and a food challenge.

Each of these tests must be administered by an allergist or medical professional in a controlled setting. For the skin test and food challenge, the tests occur with a high level of supervision to ensure the patient has access to emergency help in the case of a severe reaction.

Skin Test for Food Allergies

During a skin test, the skin is lightly pricked with a solution of the food to introduce the allergen to the person’s system. An allergist can test one or multiple foods during this test. This process allows the allergist to see the body’s immunoglobulin E (IgE) reaction to certain food triggers. Results should appear within 10 minutes and will be analyzed by the allergist to determine a food allergy.

Blood Test for Food Allergies

Another test that an allergist may recommend is a blood test. After the sample is extracted from the patient, it is sent to a lab where the IgE antibody levels are tested. The results are typically ready within a week, and an allergist can determine if they indicate whether an allergen is present.

Food Challenge for Food Allergies

If a skin or blood test is inconclusive or presents a false positive, a patient can visit a registered dietitian to address food allergies. One common test is a food challenge. A food challenge slowly introduces the patient to a specific food to test their tolerance. If the patient does not present any symptoms, they are officially allergy free! If they do present mild or severe symptoms, the test stops, and the allergist starts to develop a treatment plan for the patient.

When Do I Need Food Allergy Testing?

People of all ages can benefit from food allergy testing. Food allergy testing for kids is especially important to learn if your child has food allergies that could be severe or life-threatening. If you or your child experience itching, rash or hives, swelling or respiratory symptoms after eating a specific food, contact to your local allergy clinic to schedule a food allergy test. Additionally, many adults schedule follow-up food allergy tests to see if they’ve outgrown their allergies.

What Can I Expect Before and After Food Allergy Testing?

When scheduling your food allergy test, ask your allergist if there is anything you should do to prepare for the test. On most occasions, they will ask that you do not take any antihistamines (allergy medications) around three to five days prior to your appointment.

Since it’s difficult to diagnose food allergies, and an initial skin or blood test may present incorrect results, secondary tests may be recommended.

Next Steps