Skip to content

Allergies Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Allergy Tests

Why It Is Done

Allergy testing is done to find out what substances (allergens) may cause an allergic reaction.

Skin test

The skin prick test can also be done to:

  • Identify inhaled (airborne) allergens, such as tree, shrub, and weed pollens, molds, dust, feathers, and pet dander.
  • Identify likely food allergens (such as eggs, milk, peanuts, nuts, fish, soy, wheat, or shellfish).
  • Find out whether a person may have a drug allergy or be allergic to insect venom.

Blood test

A blood test on a blood sample may be done instead of a skin prick test if a person:

  • Has hives camera.gif or another skin condition, such as eczema, that makes it hard to see the results of skin testing.
  • Cannot stop taking a medicine, such as an antihistamine or tricyclic antidepressant, that may prevent or reduce a reaction to a substance even when a person is allergic to the substance.
  • Has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
  • Has had positive skin tests to many foods. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) can find out the foods that a person is most likely allergic to.

How To Prepare

Many medicines can affect the results of a skin test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. You may need to stop taking some medicines, such as some tricyclic antidepressants and antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin), before you have an allergy skin test.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will show. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

Skin tests

The health professional doing the skin prick or intradermal test will:

  • Clean the test site (usually on your back or arm) with alcohol.
  • Place drops of the allergens on your skin camera.gif about 1 in. (2.5 cm) to 2 in. (5 cm) apart. This allows many substances to be tested at the same time.
  • Prick the skin under each drop with a needle. The needle passes through the drop and allows some of the allergen to penetrate your skin. For the intradermal test, a needle is used to inject the allergen solution deeper into the skin.
  • Check the skin after 12 to 15 minutes for red, raised itchy areas called wheals. If a wheal forms, it means you are possibly allergic to that allergen (this is called a positive reaction).
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
 
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?
 

blowing nose
Article
woman with sore throat
Article
 
lone star tick
Slideshow
Woman blowing nose
Slideshow
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

cat lying on shelf
Article
Allergy prick test
VIDEO
 
Man sneezing into tissue
Assessment
Woman holding feather duster up to face, twitching
Quiz