How is allergy diagnosed?

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There are many different ways in which an allergy can be diagnosed. It can depend on the type of allergy and the age of the person being tested. Read more about the different types of tests that can be used.

Making a diagnosis
An accurate and early diagnosis is important to ensure appropriate allergy control and management.

The diagnosis of respiratory allergy is typically based on your ‘clinical history’, a physical examination and specific questions. An allergy clinician can in some cases identify the likely allergens just from your history and symptoms, but in order for your symptoms to be properly diagnosed, allergy testing is needed.

What is a skin prick test?
A skin prick test “provokes” an allergic reaction by adding a tiny amount of allergen into the skin.

The test allergens are selected according to your history and symptoms. A drop of the allergen extract is placed on the arm and with a lancet the skin is pierced and a very small amount of allergen enters into the skin. If you are allergic, your skin will react and you will see something very much like a mosquito bite at the site of allergen application.
A positive and a negative control are always performed at the same time. The positive control is a skin prick test without allergen, but with histamine that always causes a reaction and functions as a control.

Important facts

  • The simple and quick skin prick test is conducted by specially trained nurses or doctors, and results can be provided within 15-20 minutes
  • A blood test is sent to a laboratory and the results are usually available within 2 weeks

When is a blood test needed?
A blood test can be used on its own, or to confirm the skin prick test’s results. It measures the amount of allergen-specific antibodies (IgE) in a small sample of blood. If high levels of specific antibodies towards allergen(s) are found in the blood, it means that you are allergic. Your doctor or physician may choose a blood test if you have severe eczema or poorly controlled asthma, can’t stop taking anti-histamine medications for a few days, or have a history of life-threatening anaphylaxis1.

[Link to Allergy Severity Questionnaire]

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