What Causes Allergies?

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a substance that comes in contact with the body, including substances that are touched, ingested or breathed in. The immune system reaction can cause symptoms like wheezing and difficulty breathing, sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing, hives, and rashes, or more serious issues like swelling around the lips, tongue, and throat. Food or medication allergies can also cause gastrointestinal problems like upset stomach, cramping or diarrhea.

What is Allergy Testing?

Allergy testing is a methodical approach used to determine the underlying cause of allergies. While sometimes the cause of an allergic reaction can be easily identified, like a rash that develops after coming in contact with poison ivy, other times, the cause of an allergic reaction can be harder to determine. Allergy testing helps identify allergens so they can be avoided or controlled using immunotherapy.

How is Allergy Testing Performed?

Most allergy testing uses skin patches to identify substances responsible for allergic reactions. In skin tests, a series of small patches of skin (usually on the back) are gently abraded and different allergens are applied to the patches. The test areas are covered with waterproof bandages and left for two or three days. At the end of the testing period, the bandages are removed and the skin is evaluated for any signs of allergic reactions. Skin testing can be performed right in the office, and patients can resume their normal activities after the bandages are applied.

How Can Allergy Testing Help Control my Allergies?

Once allergens are identified, it’s much easier for patients to take steps to avoid those allergens, and they may also begin immunotherapy to reduce their reactions. During immunotherapy, patients receive diluted solutions of the allergens to help their bodies build up a tolerance to the substances so the severity of future allergic reactions is reduced.