Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Allergy Testing
When my son was born, we joked that he was a little lizard because his skin was rough and irritated from the beginning. Then there was the reflux, the eczema that was so harsh his skin would bleed, the hives all over his body after eating eggs. Allergies have been a part of his life forever.
For my daughter, it's the sniffles, the coughing and sneezing, the sinus headaches and seasonal flare-ups. Allergies have been a part of her life for a few years.
I'm not surprised. I have had my own run – many of the things they suffer from along with asthma, allergy shots, and adult-onset oral allergy syndrome.
Because of this, we've had more than a little experience with allergists and allergy testing. If you're just beginning the journey of figuring out what allergies you're dealing with – and how to treat them – hopefully you'll find some helpful information here.
Preparing starts long before the testing day.
In order to truly see how the body reacts to an allergen the body needs to be free of any medications that can alter the results. Your doctor will let you know specifics, but they'll typically as you to go at least 3 to 5 days without taking any antihistamines.
The appointment is going to be long.
Expect to spend at least 2 to 4 hours in the office. There will be setting up, the actual testing, watching for reactions, and possibly treating any reactions and waiting for them to clear.
There may or may not be needles involved.
For basic skin prick tests, the nurse or doctor will mark the skin to notate areas being tested – possibly as many as 40 different allergens. This is typically done on the back for pediatric patients but may be done on the arm with older kids and adults. Then they will use plastic pricks that barely break the skin in order to introduce the allergens.
Sometimes they'll opt for intradermal testing which involves using a small needle to inject the allergen directly under the skin.
Finally, there is the option for blood testing, which obviously involves a blood draw.
You can request medication to alleviate some of the discomfort.
While the small plastic pricks don't cause much pain, the combination of the testing, the reaction, and the other discomforts can be upsetting for some kids. Ask your doctor prior to the testing appointment about using EMLA cream. It's a numbing cream that can help desensitize the skin prior to beginning testing. It needs to be applied 30 minutes before the appointment and wrapped in plastic wrap.
This is the time to bring the tablet (or books or music or other quiet distractions).
Typically you'll be asked to keep your kiddo face down on the table for at least 20 minutes. Don't bring any snacks that haven't been approved by the doctor. Most allergists have strict policies about allowed foods and drinks to ensure the safety of all their patients.
Your doctor may not want to rush into allergy testing.
It's an imprecise science and used more as a confirmation of what symptoms may mean. Before testing your doc may encourage other routes, like using an elimination diet or trying allergy medications to control and alleviate symptoms.
No matter what the results, you can do this.
It can feel overwhelming to look at a long list of allergens that may cause discomfort or danger for your child. It can feel frustrating and lonely and scary. There is information and support out there. Check out these links for information and support that can help you move forward.