If you’ve ever wondered about your child’s allergy symptoms – their sneezing, cough, watery eyes, and wheezing (or worse) – you’ve probably wondered more about figuring out the causes of these uncomfortable symptoms by safe allergy testing so you can help them feel better.
Not only that but how can you check for every possible allergy your child may have? Are they allergic to tree pollen, grasses, the family dog, cats, or something indoors? Could it be a food allergy instead? With so many potential allergens out there, it can be very difficult to determine what specific thing or things in the environment your child is potentially allergic to.
In the search for safe allergy testing for children, parents need to know not only which tests are available but also which types of allergy testing are the safest for their child. These are the most common tests you can find for children with allergies:
Skin allergy testing – skin testing involves going to an allergist’s office and having up to 50 injections of a small amount of an allergen under the skin in a grid pattern. If an allergen is found to cause an allergy in your child, the skin around the injection site forms a weal, which is an area of raised, red skin caused by the release of a chemical called histamine. The problem with the safety of doing this kind of testing is that it can lead to a more systemic allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If it occurs during the test, emergency medicines are given to counteract the reaction.
Patch allergy testing – patch testing is similar to skin testing but only works for contact allergies like poison ivy. The allergens are taped to the skin in a grid pattern similar to how it’s done with injectable allergens. The reactions take longer to develop because they do not enter the skin. Severe reactions are possible but they tend to be localized within the skin itself. If reactions occur, topical medications are used to reduce their severity.
Blood allergy testing – because of the limitations of patch testing and injectable skin testing (few allergens tested at once and few types of allergens testable), most allergists also test the blood using venous blood testing. The blood is taken from the arm and sent to a laboratory so that food allergens and IgG allergy testing can be done. IgG allergies are less dramatic than IgE allergies; they do not give rise to weals, for example. This type of testing is the best way the doctor can say if there are food allergies and offer the most efficient way of testing for a lot of allergies at once.
Finger prick allergy testing – finger prick testing is often performed at home using a kit purchased directly from a laboratory. The instructions show you how to test your child’s blood with a safe and simple finger prick. After collecting a few drops of blood, the sample is sent to the laboratory and hundreds of allergies are evaluated at once for the presence of antibodies against those things your child is allergic to. IgG and IgE allergies can be evaluated using this testing. Like blood allergy testing at the doctor’s office, the finger prick allergy test cannot cause an allergic reaction by itself and your child does not need to stop his or her allergy medication to take the test. In that way, both venous blood sampling and finger pricks offer safe allergy testing for children.
Among children with allergies, the best way to assess a lot of possible allergens at once and do it safely is to have the child assessed with venous blood sampling or finger prick allergy testing. If your child is young and likely to be traumatized by having their blood drawn, at home finger prick allergy testing is safe and can accurately identify a lot of potential allergens.