When to Get an Allergy Test for Your Child
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:
- Cold-like symptoms that last more than a week and happen at the same time each year
- Hives or skin rashes
- Coughing or wheezing, especially at night
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 has all the test results, they'll come up with a treatment plan for your child. They may recommend:
- Medicines to treat the symptoms
- Changes in your home or to your child’s diet to avoid your child’s allergy triggers
- Shots or tablets that go under the tongue to gradually make your child less sensitive to allergy triggers
- Emergency medication to have on hand in case of a severe reaction
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.