Allergy testing is the procedure used to determine which particular substances (called allergens) are responsible for causing an allergic reaction. Allergy testing would rarely be conducted on athletes, though it can be useful as part of their health screening. Allergy tests would usually be conducted after symptoms are noted. The symptoms of allergies may include the following: skin rashes, swelling, sneezing and running nose, red and itchy eyes, asthma, nausea and vomiting, and the severe allergic reaction - anaphylaxis.
equipment required: appropriate blood testing equipment, patches or diets - often specific for the allergies to be tested.
procedure: Allergy tests must be performed by a qualified health professional who can then treat any allergic reactions if found. The testing procedure used depends on the type of allergy, but may include skin and blood tests or special diets.
- Skin Prick Tests — This is the most common test for allergies. Allergens are applied to the skin of the forearm, upper arm or back and the skin gently pricked with a needle. A positive result is indicated by redness or swelling on the skin within 15-20 minutes. A similar intradermal skin test involves injecting a small amount of the substance just below the surface of the skin.
- Blood tests (RAST) — useful when skin testing is not possible or is inconclusive. The blood is tested for levels of allergen-specific IgE, an immunoglobulin associated with allergic reactions.
- Patch tests — Patches are applied to the skin of the back in adhesive strips, and the area is examined after two and four days. A positive result shows as redness or blisters at the site of a particular substance. Patch tests are most commonly used to investigate contact dermatitis.
- Elimination Diets — used to isolate foods that may be causing an allergic reaction. Only a limited number of specified foods may be consumed initially, then if symptoms improve, foods are added one at a time until the symptoms recur (known as ‘challenge testing’). Elimination diets take at least a few weeks, and must be followed under the guidance of a dietitian or other health professional.
Treatment: may include permanent dietary changes, avoidance of allergens, or desensitization (vaccination) treatment.
Comments: Allergic reactions can be life threatening. You should see a medical practitioner if you have any concerns.