Wondering if your nagging cold is actually an allergy? Or what about your
new skin cream that made your hands break out? Distinguishing an allergy from a
non-allergic condition is not always a clear-cut task. But knowing the
difference can sometimes help you solve what's ailing you, which in turn could
mean faster relief.
Mary Fields knows just how difficult pinpointing an allergy can be. The
64-year-old Bronx resident tells WebMD she was convinced her frequent hives
were caused by something...
Skin testing is the most widely used and the most helpful in finding the cause of allergies. There are several different methods, but all involve exposing the skin to small amounts of various substances and observing the reactions over time.
Blood tests (RAST) generally identify IgE antibodies to specific antigens, or allergy triggers.
Other tests involve eliminating certain allergens from your environment and then re-introducing them to see if a reaction occurs.
People with a history of serious or anaphylactic reactions may be prescribed an auto-injector, sometimes called a bee-sting kit or EpiPen. This contains a premeasured dose of epinephrine. You carry this with you and inject yourself with medication immediately if you are exposed to a substance that causes a severe allergic reaction.
There is some evidence that breast-fed infants are less likely to have allergies than bottle-fed infants.