Intradermal Allergy Testing: Procedure, Risks & Interpretation

Wyndly Care Team
Dedicated to giving everyone incredible care

Where is the intradermal injection site for allergy testing?

The intradermal injection site for allergy testing is typically on the forearm or upper arm. A small amount of allergen is injected just under the skin surface. The healthcare provider then monitors the site for reactions, which may indicate an allergy to the tested substance.

Get started
Wyndly Allergy

Lifelong Allergy Relief from Leading Allergy Experts — You In?


What Is an Intradermal Allergy Test?

An intradermal allergy test is a diagnostic procedure used to determine an individual's allergic reactions to specific allergens. This test involves injecting a small amount of suspected allergens into the skin and observing for reactions, which indicate an allergy.

During an intradermal test, the allergist uses a tiny needle to inject the allergens into the outer layer of your skin. This process is typically performed on the forearm or the upper back. The number of allergens tested can vary, depending on your medical history and the allergist's discretion.

The reactions are usually observed after 15-20 minutes. A positive reaction is indicated by the formation of a raised, red bump, akin to a mosquito bite. This reaction signifies that the body's immune system recognizes the allergen and is reacting to it. However, interpreting the results should be done by a healthcare professional, as certain factors can affect the outcome.

It's important to note that intradermal testing is more sensitive than skin prick testing, making it a valuable tool in diagnosing allergies, especially in cases where skin prick tests yield negative results. However, it also has a higher chance of false-positive results. Therefore, it's typically used when skin prick test results are inconclusive or when testing for specific types of allergies such as drug or venom allergies, as discussed in this Wyndly Article.

Why Do Doctors Use Intradermal Allergy Testing?

Doctors utilize intradermal allergy testing due to its higher sensitivity compared to other tests like skin prick or patch tests. This sensitivity allows it to detect allergies that might not be evident in less sensitive tests.

Intradermal tests are particularly effective in identifying allergies to specific substances such as drugs or venoms. They're also beneficial when skin prick tests return inconclusive results. However, due to their high sensitivity, intradermal tests carry a higher risk of false positives, which is why they're often used in conjunction with other tests.

Intradermal allergy testing plays a crucial role in developing personalized treatment plans. These plans may include avoidance strategies, medication, or immunotherapy, which can help desensitize the body to allergens over time. Understanding the specific allergens causing reactions can help doctors tailor treatment to the individual's needs, thereby improving their quality of life.

How to Prepare for an Intradermal Allergy Test?

Preparing for an intradermal allergy test involves several steps to ensure accurate results. These steps primarily revolve around avoiding medications that can interfere with your body's allergic response.

Before the test, you should refrain from taking antihistamines, as these medications can suppress the allergic skin response, leading to false-negative results. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines. If you're unsure about a medication, consult with your healthcare provider.

Certain other medications can also interfere with skin testing. These include tricyclic antidepressants, heartburn medications, and some asthma medications. Again, your healthcare provider can provide the best guidance on which medications to avoid.

Finally, maintaining your regular skincare routine can also help ensure accurate results. However, avoid using heavy lotions or creams on the day of the test, as they can prevent the allergens from penetrating the skin. If you have a skin condition like allergic contact dermatitis, inform your doctor as it may affect the test results. Remember, the goal of preparation is to provide the most accurate results to guide your allergy treatment plan.

What Happens During an Intradermal Allergy Test Procedure?

During an intradermal allergy test, minute amounts of potential allergens are injected under the skin using a tiny needle. The procedure tests for immediate allergic reactions to specific allergens, helping to identify the substances causing your allergic symptoms.

The test is performed on the forearm or back, where the skin is thinner and more responsive. Each allergen is labeled to track the skin's response. After the allergens are injected, your healthcare provider will wait for about 15 to 20 minutes to observe any skin reactions.

Reactions appear as small, raised bumps, similar to mosquito bites. The size of the reaction can help determine the severity of your allergy. It's important not to scratch or irritate the test areas, as this can affect the results. By carefully interpreting your allergy skin test results, your healthcare provider can design an effective treatment plan, which could include options like sublingual immunotherapy tablets or allergy drops.

What Are the Risks of Intradermal Allergy Testing?

Intradermal allergy testing is generally safe, but like any medical procedure, it carries some risks. The most common risk involves the potential for an allergic reaction, which could range from mild localized reactions to more severe systemic reactions.

Mild Reactions

Mild reactions may include itching, redness, or swelling at the injection site. These are generally temporary and subside within a few hours after the test.

Severe Reactions

In rare cases, a more severe systemic reaction such as anaphylaxis can occur. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, hives, rapid heartbeat, and a drop in blood pressure. However, the likelihood of such severe reactions is minimized by the careful selection and dosage of allergens used in the test.

Despite these risks, intradermal allergy testing remains a valuable tool for diagnosing allergies. The insights gained from interpreting the test results can guide effective treatment strategies, potentially reducing the impact of allergies on your life.

How to Interpret Intradermal Skin Test Results?

Interpreting intradermal skin test results primarily involves observing the skin's reaction to the injected allergens. The test is considered positive if a wheal (raised, red bump) and flare (surrounding area of redness) develop at the test site.

Evaluating the Size of the Reaction

The size of the wheal and flare is measured in millimeters, about 15-20 minutes after the allergen is injected. A larger reaction typically indicates a greater sensitivity to the allergen.

Understanding the Response

It's important to note that a positive test doesn't always mean you'll experience symptoms when exposed to the allergen. Similarly, a negative result doesn't definitively rule out an allergy. Your doctor will interpret the results in the context of your medical history and symptoms.

What Is the Difference Between an Intradermal Test and an Allergy Scratch Test?

The primary difference between an intradermal test and a scratch test lies in the method of allergen application. Both tests aim to identify specific allergens that trigger allergic reactions, but they differ in sensitivity and procedure.

Method of Application

In a scratch test, also known as a prick or puncture test, allergens are applied to the skin surface using a tiny lancet. In contrast, the intradermal test involves injecting a small amount of allergen under the skin's surface.

Sensitivity and Risk

Intradermal tests are generally more sensitive than scratch tests, making them more likely to detect a true allergy. However, they also have a higher risk of causing a severe allergic reaction. Therefore, they are usually performed when scratch test results are negative or inconclusive.

Live Allergy-Free with Wyndly

If you want long-term relief from your allergies, Wyndly can help. Our doctors will help you identify your allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan to get you the lifelong relief you deserve. Start by taking our quick online allergy assessment today!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you administer an intradermal injection for allergy testing?

Intradermal injections for allergy testing are administered by injecting a small amount of allergen into the skin's dermis, typically on the forearm or back. The needle is inserted bevel up at a 5-15 degree angle, creating a small wheal. After 15-20 minutes, any reactions are measured.

What histamine is used for intradermal testing?

For intradermal testing, diluted histamine is typically used as a positive control. This means that a reaction to the histamine injection demonstrates that your skin is responding normally and is capable of reacting to allergens. It's crucial for validating the testing process.

How accurate is the intradermal allergy test?

The intradermal allergy test is highly accurate, with a sensitivity rate reaching up to 90%. However, there's a higher chance of false positives compared to skin prick tests due to increased sensitivity. Therefore, it's usually used when skin prick tests return negative but allergies are still suspected.

What is the endpoint of intradermal allergy testing?

The endpoint of intradermal allergy testing is to identify specific allergens causing your allergic symptoms. It involves injecting a small amount of allergen under your skin and observing for a reaction. A positive reaction (red, swollen skin) indicates a possible allergy to that substance.

What are the side effects of intradermal allergy testing?

Intradermal allergy testing is generally safe but may cause temporary side effects. These include local redness, swelling, and itching at the injection site. Rarely, severe reactions like anaphylaxis can occur. It's essential to have testing done under medical supervision to manage any potential adverse reactions.

What does a positive intradermal allergy test look like?

A positive intradermal allergy test appears as a small, raised, red bump on the skin, similar to a mosquito bite. The size of the bump is measured and compared to a control test. A larger bump usually indicates a more severe allergic reaction to the tested allergen.

What are the symptoms of an allergy test?

An allergy test doesn't cause symptoms but can induce reactions. These may include localized redness, swelling, or itching at the test site for skin prick tests. In blood tests, there are no physical reactions. Any discomfort is typically minimal and temporary.

What is the intradermal test for drugs?

The intradermal test for drugs is a diagnostic procedure where a small amount of the suspected drug is injected into the skin's dermis. If the patient is allergic to the drug, a localized skin reaction, typically a raised bump or redness, will occur within 15-20 minutes.

What is an allergy skin test for medication?

An allergy skin test for medication involves applying a small amount of a suspected drug to the skin using a tiny needle. The skin is then observed for signs of a reaction, which may include redness or swelling. This test helps identify specific drug allergies.

Is Wyndly right for you?

Answer just a few questions and we'll help you find out.

Get Started Today