How Do You Interpret Your Allergy Skin Test Results?

Updated
Updated

Does an allergy skin test hurt?

An allergy skin test can be uncomfortable. The test requires a section of your skin, often the arm or back, to be scraped lightly with a needle that is tipped with an allergen substance. If you’re allergic to a substance, those areas may become raised, red, and itchy.

This article is a transcript.

How do you interpret your allergy skin test results? I'm Dr. Manan Shah. I'm an ENT and allergist with Wyndly Health. And in this quick video, I'm going to help you understand how to interpret your allergy skin test results. Let's get started.

So when you have an allergy skin test, what's happening is your physician is exposing your skin to a bunch of potential allergy triggers, like trees, grass, weeds, animal dander. And we want to see how your skin responds. In general, if your skin responds with a big bump or hive, which we call the wheel, or if it gets very red, which we call the flare, it means you might have an allergy to that trigger. But we want to ensure that it's not just that your skin is overly sensitive, so we use two controls.

Let's talk about the controls. The first control is what we call a saline control. And what that means is we actually inject your skin with just a little bit of salt water, and we want to see how your skin responds. If your skin blows up and has a huge hive to just salt water, it makes it hard to understand the rest of your allergy test results, because it means maybe you just have sensitive skin.

The second control is what we call a histamine control. And that's where we inject your skin with a chemical called histamine. Histamine is a chemical that your body releases as part of the allergy response. And so we would expect that when we inject your skin with histamine, your skin should make a pretty big wheel or big flare. And so, if we inject your skin with histamine and you get a four or five-millimeter wheel or flare, and then we also inject you with cat and you get the same size or even bigger, it probably means that you have a cat allergy.

So to summarize all of this, the first thing I check when interpreting somebody's allergy skin test, is I make sure the saline control doesn't show a huge response and I want to make sure the histamine control does show a decent response. And then I go through all the other allergy triggers and I compare them to the saline and histamine control. So, if your response to birch was similar to your saline control, you probably don't have a birch allergy. But if your response to ragweed was bigger or about the same as your histamine control, you might have a ragweed allergy.

And lastly, what do we do with all this information? Well, the benefit of getting allergy tested is it allows your physician to identify what your allergy triggers are. You can then try to avoid these, you can try over-the-counter medications and allergy medicine, or you can do a treatment called immunotherapy.

And so at Wyndly, we focus on what's called sublingual immunotherapy, which is where we take mixtures of your allergy triggers and we give them to you in a vial that you take under the tongue daily at home. By giving you this exposure over time, your body starts to become tolerant and you stop having your allergy symptoms.

We hope this video helped you understand your allergy skin test results. And if you found this video helpful, please subscribe. Thanks so much.

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