Allergy testing is used to help identify the specific allergens that are causing the allergic symptoms by measuring how a person reacts to specific allergens such as food, tree pollen, pet dander, or mold. A "positive" allergy test means that a person has a specific allergic antibody to the substance tested. This often means that the person is allergic to the substance, and therefore may experience symptoms when exposed to the allergen.
Skin Testing (Intradermal Allergy Testing):
Skin testing is the oldest and most reliable form of allergy testing. Skin testing has been performed for over a 100 years and continues to be the test of choice for the diagnosis of allergic disease. A small amount of a suspected allergen (usually a commercially available diluted extract of allergens such as tree pollens, pet dander or mold) is injected into the skin to see if a reaction develops. Skin testing is not painful, and there is generally no bleeding involved. Usually, there are around sixty skin tests performed, which are done in an hour long session. A positive skin test appears as a raised, red itchy bump. A negative test does not result in any skin reaction.
The goal of allergy shots is to "train" the immune system over time to be better able to tolerate the allergens that trigger the allergy symptoms. The end result is that the patient becomes "immune" to the allergens, so that the patient can tolerate the allergens with fewer or no symptoms.
Testing and Treatment:
Skin testing is performed first to find out which allergens are causing the allergic symptoms. Treatment begins by receiving shots containing very small doses of the allergens. The dose is slowly increased with each shot to allow the immune system to safely adjust and build immunity to the allergens. The allergy shots are given initially on a weekly basis and later once a month. By giving small but increasing amounts of these allergens at regular intervals, tolerance to the allergen increases. Once higher doses of the allergens are administered, the patient will see relief of the allergy symptoms.
For more information on allergy testing and/or allergy shots, please contact Dr. Zadeh at Los Angeles Sinus Institute.