Allergy Testing for Children

When to Get an Allergy Test for Your Child

Does your kid get a runny nose during pollen season or hives after eating certain foods? It could be time for allergy testing.

Allergy symptoms vary a lot. They may be just a little irritating, but they can also be life-threatening. Lasting allergies in kids can cause symptoms that interfere with:

Your child's doctor may first tell you to try allergy medicine, but they may suggest seeing an allergist if it doesn't work and your kid has any of these problems:

An allergist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies. When they see your child, they'll:

  • Ask about the child’s symptoms and when they have them
  • Do a physical exam, looking for signs of allergies

They'll also ask about your family history. If both parents have allergies, a child has a 75% chance of having them. If one parent has allergies, a kid has a 50% chance of having them.

Types of Allergy Tests for Children

The allergist may suggest different types of tests, including:

  • Skin prick test. Your doctor pricks your child’s skin with a small amount of possible allergy triggers. If they’re allergic, that spot will get itchy and red. They can test for up to 50 allergies at once.
  • Skin injection test (intradermal test). Your doctor will use a needle to put a small amount of allergen under your child’s skin to see if there’s a reaction.
  • Patch test. Your doctor may use this test to look for allergic reactions that happen when your child’s skin is in contact with an allergen for a longer period of time.
  • Blood test. Your doctor will take a blood sample to look for certain antibodies known to cause allergies.
  • Elimination diet. This means your kid stops eating certain foods -- like milk, eggs, and peanuts -- to see if they were the cause of their allergy symptoms. It involves testing one food type at a time and may take some patience.
  • Food challenge test. Your doctor will watch carefully as your child eats a possible allergy food slowly. Doctors mainly use this test when others don’t give a clear answer.

Allergy Test Results

Once your doctor's got all the test results, they'll come up with a treatment plan for your child.

One word of caution: Allergy testing doesn't give you the final verdict on whether something is an allergy trigger. Your doctor may also consider the history of your child's contact with pollen or food and any reactions they’ve had.

Allergy testing can give faulty results, so the results must always be interpreted carefully. Based on allergy testing, your doctor may recommend certain medications, prevention tips, and even allergy shots.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on August 10, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Allergy Testing for Children."

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Allergy Testing," "Allergy Testing in Children and Infants," “What Do Patients and Caregivers Need to Know About Oral Food Challenges?”

Mayo Clinic: “Allergies,” “Allergy Skin Tests.”

Loyola Medicine: “Allergy Relief Tips for Your Child.”

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