Home » Allergy Testing

Allergy Testing

Skin Allergies, Atlanta | Dr. Kathleen J. SmithAllergies can be mildly irritating or a major daily struggle for some patients. According to the American Medical Association, most people with suspected allergies never get a skin test. Because testing is essential to identifying the substances to which a person may be allergic, Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta will first perform allergy testing. This process enables the individual to avoid allergy triggers. For example, if a person is severely allergic to shellfish, he or she knows it’s important to stay away from this food or individuals with seasonal allergies learn that certain times of the year are more challenging than others.

Allergy testing also answers the question of “how allergic” the individual is to certain allergens. Common allergens include pollen, molds, foods, medicines, or pet dander. If the patient has a positive test reading to a substance, he or she has developed an antibody to it. In other words, they’re likely to experience discomfort or symptoms when in contact with the allergen. Both standard broad contact allergy screens and special contact allergy series are offered by Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta.

Evaluation

The dermatologist performs and interprets allergy tests based upon the patient’s symptoms. Skin testing (prick, puncture, intradermal) and some blood tests help Dr. Kathleen J. Smith to determine the substances involved in triggering the patient’s allergic response. So-called patch tests aren’t used for allergies but to identify substances responsible for contact dermatitis. A nationally-recognized board certified dermatologist is needed to administer and interpret these tests.

Skin testing is considered by most dermatologists as the most reliable method of testing for allergies. Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta begins the test by pricking, puncturing or scratching the skin. Then, a drop of the suspected allergen (commercially prepared extracts for common allergens) is placed on skin. The test is usually painless, though the skin may be slightly abraded. In most cases, the test takes fifteen minutes or less: the patient will either respond with symptoms (positive), such as redness, rash, itching, etc., or not (negative). Some patients require multiple tests.

If the prick series of skin tests are negative, the physician may decide to perform an intradermal allergy test. In this instance, a needle is used to inject a tiny amount of diluted allergen beneath the skin’s top layer. Because the allergenic substance is in closer contact with the patient, he or she may exhibit a positive reaction. It’s helpful for the patient to witness a positive (allergic) response to the allergenic substance: it’s possible to avoid a known allergy trigger. Since the patient experiences the response, he or she learns more about how the body develops allergies.

Blood tests are occasionally useful in the diagnoses of other allergies, including allergies to foods. The doctor draws a blood sample that tests for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (known as ‘ELISA’). Since these tests are more expensive to perform, and the number of allergen tests available are limited, most physicians recommend blood tests for allergies only in certain situations.

Lymphocyte Transformation Testing

A growing number of patients learn of allergies to new hips and knees only after the surgery is performed. Dr. Kathleen Smith of one of the few dermatologists in the area to offer a test that can detect allergic reaction to certain metals used in  implants. The test is called Lymphocyte Transformation Testing and can save replacement surgery patients from discovering a misreable allergy to the metal implant after the surgery.

Because of the aging population and the increase of people living longer, the demand for hip and knee replacement is skyrocketing. For some of these patients, they won’t know if they’re allergic until after the implant is put in place. However, Dr. Kathleen Smith can put you at ease by determining that you are allergic beforehand and then try and find other options for treatment.

For more on allergy testing+

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the patient is exposed to allergens (called allergic contact dermatitis) or irritants (called irritant contact dermatitis). This form results in a localized rash or skin irritation that may itch or burn. Healing can take several days to weeks, after the individual’s contact with the allergen or irritant stops. Almost anything may cause contact dermatitis. However, some substances such as haptens, proteins and metals are often implicated. The location, character, or pattern of the rash — along with the patient’s work or hobbies — may also give Dr. Kathleen J. Smith clues about what’s causing the reaction.

Related conditions include:

  • Phototoxic dermatitis happens when sun activates the allergen or irritant.
  • Contact urticaria, commonly known as hives, appears within minutes of exposure the an allergen and usually fades within a few minutes or hours.

Safety

Allergy testing is generally a very safe process. People of all ages, including infants, may be tested for allergies. (Mayo Clinic cites that very young children may show less reactions to skin testing than older children and adults.) Quite rarely, whole-body allergen reactions (anaphylaxis) appear to occur from skin testing. That’s one of the best reasons for patients with severe allergies to have tests performed in the physician’s office! Some individuals, such as those taking anti-histamine medicines, can’t have successful skin tests. People taking blood pressure controlling medicines (or those taking heart or lung medications) shouldn’t have skin tests for allergies. They are at higher risk for whole-body reactions.

Treatment

A patient should consider testing when he or she develops suspected allergic reactions to substances or foods. Sometimes, it’s possible for a young child with a food allergy to outgrow it, but most allergies don’t resolve on their own. Symptoms can increase over time. Dr. Kathleen J. Smith, a board-certified dermatologist, has a wide variety of treatment options available to patients after diagnosis.

Conclusion

Allergies can be a mild annoyance or almost completely debilitating conditions. The good news is that most patients with allergies can enjoy life again with the right allergy management treatments. Patients in North Decatur, GA, Belvedere Park, GA, Druid Hills, GA, North Druid Hills, GA, Panthersville, GA, Gresham Park, GA, Tucker, GA, Doraville, GA, Chamblee, GA, Redan, GA, East Point, GA, Forest Park, GA, Sandy Springs, GA, North Atlanta, Decatur, and throughout the greater metropolitan area should call Dr. Kathleen J. Smith for an appointment now: 678-904-4932.

American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Logo