Allergy Testing Options


There are several different options for allergy testing, including blood tests, skin-prick tests, food challenge tests, and allergy provocation tests. Together with your healthcare provider, you can decide which test is best for you. After your elected allergy test is performed, the results are reviewed by your healthcare provider alongside your medical history to help establish an accurate diagnosis. 


Allergy Blood Test


An allergy blood test is a quick and simple way for your healthcare provider to get answers to your underlying allergy questions. The test, also called a specific IgE (sIgE) blood test, provides informative results that indicate the levels of allergen-specific IgE antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are an indicator of allergic sensitization and, in context of an allergy-focused medical history, can help your healthcare provider determine if you are allergic and to what. 

How Allergy Blood Tests Work

  1. A small sample of blood is drawn.
  2. The blood is sent to a laboratory for analys. 
  3. The results are returned a few days later for your healthcare provider to interpret alongside your symptoms and medical history. 

This powerful diagnostic tool can reveal potential sensitization to hundreds of possible allergens with one blood sample. Blood testing has fewer limitations on who can receive it or when it can be performed compared to other types of testing. Learn more about the benefits of specific IgE blood testing. Or explore a list of frequently asked questions
 

Skin-Prick Test


In a skin-prick test, your skin is directly exposed to suspected allergens and observed for signs of a reaction. Although these tests can be done at a young age, the repeated scratching or pricking can be traumatic for small children. A skin-prick test can be difficult to use in the presence of a condition such as eczema, if you are actively taking an antihistamine, or if you have darker skin, which may make it hard to read the results. 

How Skin-Prick Allergy Tests Work

  1. The upper layer of your skin is punctured or scratched to introduce a very small amount of a suspected allergen to your immune system. 
  2. A reaction similar to a mosquito bite may appear, usually within 20 minutes, indicating the presence of specific IgE for (sensitization to) this allergen.

Key Test Differences 

Specific IgE Blood Testing 

Skin-Prick Testing

Typically ordered and reviewed by a clinician 

Patients do not need to discontinue allergy medications 

 

Requires only one needle stick (a single blood sample)

Carries no risk of severe allergic reaction

 

Can be used when extensive skin rash is present

 

Component testing is available

 

Same day results in the office

 


Food Allergy Challenge Test


A challenge test, in connection with a blood test or a skin-prick test, is a powerful diagnostic tool. Also called an oral food challenge (OFC), it is used to establish a correct diagnosis, which can be guided by the results from a skin-prick test or a blood test. A challenge test can be used to confirm a food allergy or to determine whether you have outgrown a food allergy. 1,3

How Food Allergy Challenge Tests Work

An OFC typically has three steps:1,3

  1. You are fed a small portion of a food to which you have a suspected allergy.
  2. You are monitored closely for any clinical symptoms, usually in a medical (clinic or hospital) setting. 
  3. If there is no reaction, you consume increasingly larger portions of the food, up to a serving size. If a reaction occurs, the test stops.
     

Provocation Test


A provocation test is very similar to a challenge test. The main difference is that this type of test is usually used to test for suspected respiratory, medication, or occupational allergy, not typically for food. Therefore, it can be performed in the nose, eyes, or lungs, as well as the mouth. 4 

How Provocation Tests Work

Provocation tests usually have three steps:4

  1. You are exposed to small but increasing quantities of your suspected allergen.
  2. You are monitored closely for any clinical symptoms. 
  3. If there is no reaction, you are given more until a response is seen. If symptoms occur, the test stops.

This test is rarely performed, and when it is, it is usually done in a hospital setting.

To properly manage and treat allergies, it’s important to first understand exactly what is causing symptoms. Talk to a healthcare provider about allergy testing options. To get the conversation started, we compiled a few questions designed to help healthcare providers get a full picture of your symptoms. You can review your answers together during your office visit.

Tools for Understanding Allergies

 

Track allergy symptoms and prepare for a visit with a healthcare provider.

Learn about specific allergens, including common symptoms, management, and relief. 

Are you a healthcare provider? Get comprehensive information on hundreds of whole allergens and allergen components.

  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. How Do Doctors Diagnose Allergies. http://www.aafa.org/page/allergy-diagnosis.aspx. Accessed June 2019.
  2. Kwong KYC, Jean T, Redjal N (2014) Variability in Measurement of Allergen Skin Testing Results Among Allergy-Immunology Specialists. J Allergy Ther. 5:60. doi:10.4172/2155-6121.1000160.
  3. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. What do patients and caregivers need to know about oral food. challenges. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/oral-food-challenge. Accessed June 2019. 
  4. Niederberger V, Eckl-Dorna J, Pauli G. Recombinant allergy-based provocation testing. Methods. 2014;66(1):96-105.