Allergy Testing and Diagnosis: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Understanding Allergies and Their Impact on Your Life

As someone who has personally dealt with allergies, I know how much of an impact they can have on your life. Allergies can make you feel miserable, affecting your daily activities and even your sleep. They can also lead to more serious health problems if left untreated. That's why it's crucial to get tested and diagnosed as soon as possible. In this section, we'll discuss what allergies are, the different types, and why it's essential to address them.

Allergies are abnormal immune system reactions to substances that are typically harmless to most people. These substances, called allergens, can include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and certain foods. There are various types of allergies, such as seasonal allergies, food allergies, and contact allergies. Each type has its unique symptoms, but some common ones include sneezing, itchiness, and rashes.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step to managing your allergies and improving your quality of life. By understanding what triggers your symptoms, you can take steps to avoid those allergens and reduce your reactions. Additionally, a proper diagnosis can help you find the most effective treatment options for your specific needs.

Preparing for Your Allergy Testing Appointment

Before you go for your allergy testing appointment, there are a few things you can do to prepare. First, it's essential to discuss your symptoms and medical history with your healthcare provider. This information will help them determine the most appropriate tests for your situation. Be sure to mention any over-the-counter or prescription medications you're taking, as some can interfere with the test results.

Next, you'll want to make a list of any potential allergens you suspect might be causing your symptoms. Think about any patterns you've noticed, such as your symptoms worsening during certain times of the year or after eating specific foods. This information will be helpful for your healthcare provider when determining which allergens to test for.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may ask you to stop taking certain medications before your appointment. This is because some medications, such as antihistamines, can affect the test results. Make sure to follow your healthcare provider's instructions carefully to ensure accurate test results.

Types of Allergy Tests and What to Expect

There are several types of allergy tests available, and your healthcare provider will choose the most appropriate one based on your symptoms and medical history. In this section, we'll discuss the most common tests and what you can expect during each procedure.

Skin Prick Test

A skin prick test is one of the most common allergy tests. During this test, a small amount of the suspected allergen is placed on your skin, and a needle is used to prick the surface. This allows the allergen to enter your skin, and if you're allergic, you'll develop a small, raised bump at the site within 15-20 minutes. The test is not painful, but you may experience some itchiness or discomfort at the site of the reaction.

Blood Test

A blood test, also known as a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) or ImmunoCAP, measures the amount of allergy-specific antibodies in your blood. This test is often used if you have a skin condition that makes skin prick testing difficult or if you're taking medications that could interfere with the skin prick test results. A small amount of blood will be drawn and sent to a lab for analysis. You should receive your results within a week or two.

Patch Test

A patch test is used to diagnose contact allergies, such as those caused by exposure to certain metals, chemicals, or fragrances. During this test, small patches containing potential allergens are placed on your skin, typically on your back, and left in place for 48 hours. Your skin will then be examined for any signs of an allergic reaction. This test can be slightly uncomfortable, as you'll need to keep the patches in place and avoid getting them wet during the testing period.

Interpreting Your Allergy Test Results

Once your allergy tests are complete, your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you. They'll explain what allergens you tested positive for and what this means for your treatment plan. It's important to remember that a positive test result doesn't always mean you're allergic to that substance, as false positives can occur. Your healthcare provider will consider your test results along with your medical history and symptoms to determine the most accurate diagnosis.

If you tested positive for certain allergens, your healthcare provider might recommend additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. This could include an oral food challenge for food allergies or a bronchial provocation test for asthma-related allergies. These tests are performed under close medical supervision to ensure your safety.

Creating a Personalized Allergy Management Plan

Armed with the results of your allergy tests, you and your healthcare provider can work together to create a personalized allergy management plan. This plan will typically include strategies for avoiding your allergens, such as making changes to your home environment or adjusting your diet. You may also be prescribed medications to help manage your symptoms, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, or epinephrine auto-injectors for severe reactions.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy. This treatment involves receiving regular injections containing small amounts of your allergens, with the goal of reducing your sensitivity over time. Allergy shots can be effective for certain types of allergies, such as seasonal allergies or insect venom allergies, but they're not suitable for everyone.


Living with allergies can be challenging, but with proper testing and diagnosis, you can take control of your symptoms and improve your quality of life. By understanding what to expect during the testing process and how to prepare, you can set yourself up for success in managing your allergies. Remember that you're not alone in this journey, and there are many resources and support systems available to help you navigate life with allergies.