DOES MY CHILD HAVE ALLERGIES?
HOW PEDIATRICIANS TEST FOR ALLERGIES
So you noticed your child has persistent symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy, watery eyes and are thinking it might be time to test for allergies. Here's a look at the different ways pediatricians and allergists test for allergies in children and what you can expect.
Allergists and pediatricians mostly use skin and blood tests to detect allergies in children. Skin tests generally take 20 to 40 minutes and aren’t painful. Some detect allergic reactions immediately while others account for delayed reactions that develop over several days.1
SKIN PRICK TEST
A skin prick test (also called a puncture or scratch test) checks for immediate reactions to allergens like pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust mites. In adults, the test is usually administered on the forearm but children may be tested on the upper back. If your child is allergic to one of the substances tested, they’ll develop a raised, red, itchy bump (like a mosquito bite) called a “wheal.” A nurse will then measure the bump's size.1
SKIN INJECTION TEST
Your child’s doctor may opt for intradermal testing, which is more sensitive and usually provides more consistent results. The test involves injecting a small amount of the allergen under the skin’s surface. After about 20 minutes the doctor will check for a reaction, which usually resembles a small hive with swelling and redness.2
BLOOD (IN VITRO) TESTS
If your child is on a medication that would interfere with the wheal and flare results of a skin test, your allergist or pediatrician may opt for a blood test. First a blood sample is taken and then it’s sent to the lab, where it’s tested for evidence of sensitivity to certain allergens.3,4
Allergy testing can be done in children of any age.3 But, for young children, it can be a little scary so to help eliminate some of that fear, talk to them about how it works and what to expect.
1. Allergy skin tests. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/allergy-tests/basics/what-you-can-expect/prc-20014505
2. Intradermal allergy test reactions: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia Image. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2015, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/19345.htm
3. Allergy Testing in Children and Infants. (2015, January 15). Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://acaai.org/allergies/treatment/allergy-testing/children
4. Allergies: Tests and diagnosis. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20034030