How Do Doctors Test for Allergies?

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The doctor suspects that my son has allergies and recommended that we get him tested. What kind of tests should we expect?
- Polly

The two main types of allergy tests are skin tests and blood tests:

  1. A skin test (also called a scratch test) is the most common allergy test. With this test, the doctor or nurse will put a tiny bit of an allergen (like pollen or food) on the skin, then prick the outer layer of skin or make a small scratch on the skin. If the area swells up and becomes red (like a mosquito bite), the test is said to be positive, meaning that the child is allergic to that substance. Skin testing allows the doctor to see within about 15 minutes if a child is allergic to the substances tested.
  2. A blood test may be used if a skin test can't be done. It takes a few days to get the results of blood tests.

Talk to your doctor or allergist about the specific test that will be done.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: April 2015

Related Resources

OrganizationNational Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) conducts and supports basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.
Web SiteFood Allergy Research and Education (FARE) Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis.

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Basic Blood Chemistry Tests Doctors order basic blood chemistry tests to assess a wide range of conditions and the function of organs.
Environmental Control Measures Families of kids with allergies should use environmental control measures that reduce exposure to the child's allergy triggers. Here's how to begin.
All About Allergies Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have an allergy. Find out how allergies are diagnosed and how to keep them under control.
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Blood Test: Immunoglobulin E (IgE) The immunoglobulin E (IgE) test is often performed as part of an initial screen for allergies. High IgE levels also may indicate a parasitic infection.
How Do Doctors Test for Food Allergies? Find out what the experts have to say.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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