Allergy Skin Prick Test: What’s It Like?
If your child has an upcoming allergy skin prick test, you may be wondering what is involved. After all, you were informed that you could be in the allergy clinic for a couple of hours. So what exactly happens during this test?
What is an Allergy Skin Prick Test?
First, let’s describe what it is. During an allergy skin prick test, also called a puncture or scratch test, a tiny amount of the suspected allergen is placed under the skin to see if it causes an allergic reaction. This test can either confirm or deny an allergy to a specific substance and works for both food and environmental allergies.
For food allergies, we will obtain your child’s history and the doctor will determine which foods to test. The most common food allergens are: milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. The basic environmental panel tests for the 13 most common allergens. There is a more in depth screening that contains 40 different allergens and includes both indoor (dust, mold, cockroaches, etc) and outdoor (trees, grasses, etc) triggers.
Why Does My Child Need An Allergy Skin Prick Test?
Second, let’s talk about why your child might need it. Because allergic conditions are the most common health issue affecting children in the U.S., we need a quick and accurate way to determine the source of the problem. The National Health Interview Survey states that 8.4% of U.S. kids under the age of 18 have hay fever; 10% have respiratory allergies; 5.4% have food allergies; and 11.6% have skin allergies.
While the test is great at confirming or negating an allergy to a substance, unfortunately it can’t tell us HOW allergic a patient is to it. But, once your allergist knows what your child is allergic to, he or she can help you develop an avoidance and treatment plan.
Who Can Get The Test?
We administer the test to kids of all different ages with varying suspected allergies. For instance, we see a lot of infants whose parents are introducing them to solid foods. Either the baby had an allergic reaction and they want to pinpoint what food it was, or sometimes parents are nervous to feed a particular food to their baby and want peace of mind before they start. Another example is when kids are older and develop allergic rhinitis, or sneezing, stuffy and runny nose, watery eyes and itching. Sometimes a pet is suspected as the cause and families are hoping to rule it out.
What Is An Allergy Skin Prick Test Like?
Before we start, we’ll make sure that your child is healthy. If she is having any asthmatic symptoms, or showing signs of a viral infection, we will not administer the test, just to be safe. We can break the allergy skin prick test down to five steps:
1. Determining Location
2. Numbering or Lettering
3. Utilizing Dermapicks
After the test is administered with dermapicks, she’ll need to wait for 15 minutes to see if a reaction takes place. Once we leave the room, most kids forget about it because they’re reading, coloring, watching a moving or playing on an electronic device.
After you’ve received the results of your allergy skin prick test, your allergist will help you develop an avoidance and treatment plan. For environmental allergies, this can include strategies for limiting indoor or outdoor exposures, medications, and even allergy shots. For food allergies, this may mean strict avoidance measures and creating an action plan, in the event that an exposure does happen.