23 Nov What Kinds Of At-Home Allergy Tests Can You Get?
As more people look for ways to address health at home, many are turning to at-home allergy tests to check for sensitivities to allergens. What kinds of allergy tests can you get at home? Keep reading to learn more!
What is an allergy test and how can it help you?
Sometimes our bodies react to harmless foreign substances – like pollen, pet dander, or certain foods – as if they are dangerous. This phenomenon is referred to as an allergic reaction.
When this occurs, the body’s immune system tries to protect itself from the foreign substance by producing antibodies to protect itself, which can result in inflammation, tingling, itchiness, and other symptoms. The severity of an allergic reaction can range from minor discomfort to a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Allergy tests identify the source of an allergic reaction by exposing you to a very tiny amount of specific allergens to see if they trigger a reaction. There are a number of different ways allergy tests are administered, including:
- Skin prick: This method is the most common, and involves letting an allergen penetrate the outer layer of skin to check for a reaction.
- Intradermal: This test is the next step if the skin prick method is ineffective – it inserts allergens deeper into the skin. This method is not as specific, and can lead to false-positive results.
- Patch test: This test is most often used with contact dermatitis and other situations in which the allergic reaction may not be instantaneous. A patch containing the suspected allergen is placed on the skin for up to 48 hours to see if an allergic response has been triggered.
- Blood tests: Blood tests are used when other methods are unsafe or inconvenient. Blood is drawn and then analyzed to see how it reacts to potential allergens.
- Challenge tests: These tests are most often used to identify food allergies. Under the close supervision of a professional, a small amount of the suspected food allergen is consumed, and then the patient is observed for signs of an allergic reaction.
Pet tests – dog and cat allergies
Allergies to dogs and cats typically result in irritation of the membranes that line the nose and eyes, leading to stuffy nose and inflamed eyes. Those with severe sensitivity to dog and cat allergens can experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or an intense rash. Cat allergies can trigger a severe asthma episode or even lead to chronic asthma. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.
Pet allergies are detected typically with a blood or skin test. It is easier to identify cat allergies than dog allergies for a few reasons, including:
- People can experience different levels of sensitivity to different dog breeds, which may not be fully reflected in the extracts used in allergy tests
- Dog allergen samples may include contaminants, meaning that a test may cause a reaction due to ingredients in the testing extract even for those who are not allergic to dogs
- Contaminants in dog allergen samples may interfere with the reaction, meaning a test may fail to detect a dog allergy
Food allergy testing typically includes a combination of testing methods, including skin prick, challenge, and blood testing. These are best done under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as some food allergens can cause life-threatening reactions.
It is important to understand the difference between a food allergy and food sensitivity.
- A food allergy triggers an immune system reaction to a particular food.
- Food sensitivity, also known as food intolerance, typically involves difficulty in digesting a particular food, such as dairy products for lactose intolerant individuals.
Peanuts are known as an allergen that can cause life-threatening reactions in some people, which is why it’s so important to have a healthcare professional present during testing. If it is determined that you have a severe peanut allergy, your doctor may prescribe an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) to carry with you in case you experience anaphylaxis.
Tree nuts contain similar proteins as peanuts, meaning people allergic to peanuts may also be allergic to almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and cashews. You may also receive an EpiPen prescription for a tree nut allergy if it is determined you are allergic.
Gluten allergies and sensitivities can be difficult to diagnose, so if you suspect an allergy you should consult a healthcare professional. It’s important to understand the difference between Celiac Disease and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
Celiac disease is when gluten causes your immune system to attack your intestinal lining, causing damage. Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, also known as gluten intolerance, involves a reaction by the body both inside and outside the digestive tract. Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity has only recently been recognized by the medical community and is surrounded by controversy.
Shellfish allergies are typically detected with skin and blood tests. This testing is the only sure way to determine whether symptoms are resulting from an allergy or food contamination. If it is determined you have a shellfish allergy, your doctor may prescribe an EpiPen to carry with you.
Other types of allergy tests
Nickel, copper, and other metals
Nickel allergies are becoming more common in the United States, and can develop at any age. It’s more common for women to be diagnosed with a nickel allergy than men. Nickel allergy symptoms commonly include severe itching, redness, dry or rough skin, and contact dermatitis. Nickel allergies are typically diagnosed via a patch test.
It’s normal to find copper in the body. Copper toxicity occurs when those levels are too high, resulting in symptoms like headaches, vomiting, and jaundice. Copper toxicity is usually detected through a blood test.
Other metals that may cause allergic reactions or toxicity are usually either detected with a blood or a patch test.
Medical experts typically refer to pollen allergies as “seasonal allergic rhinitis.” Symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes, ears, nose, and mouth
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Red, watery, or swollen eyes
- Pollen allergies are typically detected using a skin prick or blood test.
Penicillin and other drugs
Penicillin is an antibiotic prescribed to treat bacterial infections. However, some people are allergic to this drug. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, rash, and itching. Those with severe allergies could experience life-threatening anaphylaxis.
If you suspect that you may have a penicillin allergy, you should consult a healthcare professional – research indicates that many people incorrectly believe they have penicillin allergies. This means they end up using antibiotic treatments that are less effective, or significantly more costly.
If you have a penicillin allergy, you may be allergic to several other antibiotic drugs.
Are at-home allergy tests useful?
At-home allergy tests have grown in popularity as people look for affordable, convenient ways to address their health concerns. These tests typically involve pricking your finger with a lancet and depositing a drop or two of blood onto a card or into a sample tube. You then mail the sample to a lab to be tested.
While home testing kits seem like a convenient solution, The American Association of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology do not recommend them. A medical expert will know which samples to test after a consultation. They will also be able to tell the difference between an intolerance and an allergy. Samples may also be affected if they are stored improperly, meaning that results may not be accurate.
Allergy Testing By Medical Experts At Home With Concierge MD
If you are looking for an accurate, convenient, and discreet way to determine if you have an allergy, Concierge MD can help. You can book an appointment for one of our healthcare experts to provide at-home allergy tests wherever you are.
Our team will review results with you, and let you know the next step in addressing your allergy or intolerance. We offer the convenience of home test kits, with the peace of mind that your health is in the capable hands of our trained healthcare team. Call or click the button below to make an appointment today!