An allergy can occur when your immune system reacts to substances (called allergens) that are harmless for most people. In affected people, allergies can trigger conditions such as asthma and hay fever, skin conditions such as eczema, eye conditions such as conjunctivitis. You can have an allergic reaction to many different substances, including medications, substances in our environment such as pollens, and foods, such as eggs, seafood or nuts.
Allergy testing is important in managing allergies, as testing indicates what you are allergic to. Testing will also help a doctor advise on the best ways to avoid these allergens.
Who should have allergy testing?
You may benefit from allergy testing if you suffer from asthma or hay fever, or if you have a reaction to insect stings or certain foods. Testing can detect allergies to dust mites, animal dander, mould spores, pollens, certain foods, some insect stings, chemicals and even certain medications.
Who should perform allergy testing?
It is important that allergy tests are carried out and interpreted by trained health professionals. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist immunologist or allergist if a more complicated assessment is needed. It is important that the results of allergy tests are assessed alongside your medical history.
Some alternative practitioners offer allergy tests and treatments. These tests are often expensive and may be of little or no use in correctly detecting allergies.
Types of allergy tests
The most common forms of allergy tests are the skin prick tests and the blood tests.
If you have skin prick testing, you will be pricked on the arm or back a number of times, with a tiny amount of allergen dropped onto the pinprick. If you are allergic, where you were pricked will become swollen and itchy. This generally subsides within 2 hours. Although skin prick testing can be uncomfortable, most people find it tolerable. The results are available within 20 minutes.
Blood tests can be also used to test for allergies. They may be used when skin testing is not suitable, such as for people who have severe eczema or who are taking medications that may interfere with the test.
Other, less common allergy tests include:
- intradermal skin testing
- patch testing
- and oral allergen testing
How much does allergy testing cost?
In Australia, Medicare covers part of the cost of skin prick tests and blood tests used to detect allergies, if the tests have been ordered by a doctor. You can expect to pay about $120 for each test once Medicare has covered some of the costs. Concession card holders might be charged less.
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Last reviewed: May 2020