07 Jun Can You Get An Allergy Test At Your Home?
If you suspect you or a loved one has an allergy, you may be exploring test options. Going through the hassle of scheduling an allergy test at a doctor’s office just to find out you do not have an allergy seems like a frustrating scenario. Fortunately, you can now get an allergy test at home so you can get the answers you need without the hassle of visiting a clinic. But first, how can you know if you need a test?
What is an allergy test?
Our bodies’ immune systems are designed to protect us from not only illnesses, but foreign substances that the body identifies as harmful. It is not uncommon for the human body to identify substances like specific foods, pollen, or pet dander as harmful and begin producing antibodies in response to them for protection. The result of this overreaction by the immune system is known as an allergic reaction, which can cause a number of symptoms ranging in severity.
How to know when you need an allergy test
The symptoms of an allergy can vary depending on the allergen (the substance you are allergic to), and how severe your allergy is.
Typical airborne allergens include pollen, dust, and pet dander. Common symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion, runny nose, or sneezing
- Chronic cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Itchy, watery eyes
Common contact allergens include fragrances, latex, or certain metals. If you have a contact dermatitis allergy, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Burning sensation on skin
- Itchy skin
Contact allergies are diagnosed by dermatologists, who perform a patch test to confirm the allergy.
People who have food allergies generally experience symptoms within 30 minutes; however, sometimes symptoms do not appear until up to two hours after the allergen has been consumed. Symptoms of food allergies include:
Cardiovascular issues including:
- Pale skin
- Weak pulse
Digestive issues such as:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Respiratory issues including:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in chest or throat
Skin issues such as:
- Generalized itching
- Swelling of tongue, lips, or face
It should be noted that there is a difference between food allergies and food intolerance. A food allergy involves an immune response to an allergen. Food sensitivities, sometimes known as food intolerances, cause symptoms resulting from an inability to break down food properly.
Symptoms of food sensitivities include:
- Bloating, gas, and stomach cramps
- Constipation, diarrhea, and nausea
Anaphylaxis – severe allergic reactions
Some allergic reactions can cause severe symptoms that can be life threatening, especially if left untreated. This is known as anaphylaxis, which is generally caused by food allergies, allergies to medications or other substances, latex, or venom allergies (i.e., bee stings).
Anyone showing signs of anaphylaxis should seek medical treatment right away. People who are diagnosed with severe allergies may be prescribed an Epi-pen, a portable emergency treatment designed to stop an allergic reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Swelling (which can interfere with ability to swallow or breathe)
- Shortness of breath, chest tightness, or wheezing
- Hives or red rash
- Feelings of doom
If treatment is not received quickly, anaphylaxis may cause:
- Drop in blood pressure (weak pulse)
- Increased heart rate
- Sudden weakness
The benefits of allergy testing
Allergy testing confirms that the cause of the symptoms is an allergic reaction to a specific allergen. It also measures the severity of the allergy. If you do have an allergy, allergy testing arms you with the information you need to navigate your needs. This may include taking medication to lessen the reaction or developing strategies to avoid known allergens.
Types of allergy tests
There are a few different types of allergy tests, which are administered based on the suspected allergen and your symptoms.
- Blood test: A blood draw is performed, and the suspected allergen is added to the sample in a lab. The sample is then tested to measure lgE antibody levels to determine if a reaction took place. It should be noted that blood tests are more likely to produce a false-positive result.
- Challenge test: These tests for food allergies are only conducted with a licensed medical professional present. Patients consume a small amount of the suspected allergen and wait to determine if a reaction occurs. Challenge tests are exclusively conducted with a medical professional so that immediate treatment can be provided should anaphylaxis occur.
- Skin prick test: Sometimes called a scratch test, this test is conducted by pricking skin with a needle containing 10-50 suspected allergens. Typically performed on the forearm or back, the skin prick test will indicate an allergy with a small rash or raised, round spots known as wheals. Reactions typically happen within 15 minutes of exposure. This test can detect airborne allergies, food allergies, and penicillin allergies.
- Intradermal skin test: The intradermal skin test typically follows an inconclusive or negative skin prick test. Suspected allergens are injected into the outer layer of skin, following a similar procedure to the skin prick test. Intradermal skin tests can check for airborne allergies, allergies to medications, and allergies to insect stings.
- Patch test: The patch test can be applied in two different ways – by placing drops of an allergen directly onto the skin or applying a bandage containing drops of an allergen to the skin. The bandage is left on until a follow-up appointment 2-4 days later, when the bandage is removed and the doctor administering the test checks the skin for signs of a reaction. This test detects the cause of contact dermatitis.
DIY kits vs. professional testing at home
The pandemic resulted in many people rethinking how they addressed their healthcare needs, leading to a surge of over-the-counter (OTC) do-it-yourself (DIY) home testing kits and options to receive professional treatment at home.
OTC DIY home testing kits
Experts do not recommend OTC DIY testing kits. They are not always designed to test for the correct antibodies. Additionally, they have a higher rate of false-positive results, which means they may incorrectly indicate an allergy when you do not have one.
Perhaps a bigger reason to seek professional testing is that an at-home test result from an OTC DIY kit is not sufficient to diagnose an allergy. If you were to seek professional care after using an OTC DIY kit, the doctor would need to conduct their own test to confirm whether you have an allergy. Doctors have the ability to distinguish food allergies from food sensitivities, whereas home testing kits cannot.
Professional testing at home
Professional testing at home offers the convenience of getting tested at home with the guidance of medical professionals, so you can feel confident in your results. A health expert will conduct a health screening to help determine the appropriate test to conduct. Once samples are collected, they are submitted to a lab for processing. Mobile healthcare practices tend to have working relationships with specific labs, often meaning you can get results faster than you would from an OTC DIY kit.
Once results have been received, a doctor can help you interpret results and determine the best course of treatment. Professional testing at home means you can get reliable results and medical advice without leaving the comfort and privacy of your home.
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Choose Concierge MD As Your House Call Doctor For Allergies And More
If you need a house call doctor for your allergies, reach out to Concierge MD. We are a licensed, mobile healthcare practice of a wide range of services, including:
- Direct Primary Care: Get annual physicals, preventative screenings, blood tests, and more.
- Covid-19: We offer testing, monoclonal antibody treatment, and can prescribe Remdesivir to those who test positive for Covid-19.
- IV Therapy: Our 12 formulas fuel your body with fluids, vitamins, and antioxidants to help you feel your best.
Concierge MD administers all services in the comfort and privacy of your home, with telehealth support between appointments. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!