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Allergy Revealed: A Comprehensive Guide to Types and Allergy Testing

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Allergies are a common health concern affecting people of all ages around the world. An allergy is an abnormal immune response to a typically harmless substance, known as an allergen. When exposed to an allergen, the immune system overreacts, leading to various symptoms that can range from mild discomfort to severe reactions.

Identifying specific allergens is essential for effectively managing allergies, and that's where allergy tests come into play. This article “Understanding Allergies, Types of Allergy and Different Types of Allergy Tests” will explore what allergies are, their different types, and the various allergy tests available to pinpoint triggers accurately.

What is Allergy?

An allergy is the body's immune system reacting to substances it perceives as harmful, even though these substances are generally safe for most people. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, certain foods (e.g., nuts, dairy, and shellfish), insect stings, medications, and various environmental factors (e.g., mold, chemicals).

Types of Allergies

Respiratory Allergies:

Respiratory allergies affect the upper and lower respiratory tracts and are among the most prevalent types. Some common respiratory allergies include:

  • Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis):

Triggered by airborne allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander, causing symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and itchy eyes.

  • Asthma:

Characterized by inflamed and narrowed airways, asthma can be triggered by allergens, respiratory infections, or environmental factors, leading to difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing.

Food Allergies:

Food allergies can lead to a range of symptoms, from mild hives and stomach upset to severe anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Food allergies occur when the immune system identifies specific food proteins as harmful. Common food allergens include:

  • Nuts and Seeds

  • Dairy Products

  • Shellfish and Fish

  • Eggs

  • Wheat and Gluten

Skin Allergies:

Skin allergies manifest as rashes, redness, itching, and swelling. Common skin allergies include:

  • Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis):

Characterized by itchy, inflamed skin that may become rough, cracked, and blistered.

  • Contact Dermatitis:

Occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with an allergen, leading to localized irritation or rash.

Types of Allergy Tests

To accurately identify specific allergens, healthcare professionals utilize various allergy tests:

  • Blood Test (Allergen-specific IgE test):

Measures the presence of allergen-specific IgE antibodies in the blood to determine sensitization to particular allergens. At Sterling Accuris, we offer a range of simple and efficient blood tests to help you identify specific allergens causing your allergic reactions.

Our Allergy Mix Panel (Veg Food, Pollens, Contacts, and Drugs) allows us to pinpoint the exact triggers. Additionally, the Accuris B Positive Allergy Panel (Food, Drug, and Inhalant) allergies, while the CRD Allergy Panel (Molecular) provides advanced molecular testing for precise results.

With these tests, you can gain valuable insights into the substances you are allergic to, empowering you to take necessary precautions and seek appropriate management for a better quality of life.

  • Skin Prick Test:

The skin prick test, also known as a puncture or scratch test, is a common and effective way to identify allergens that trigger allergic reactions. During the test, a small amount of various allergens, such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, or food extracts, are applied to the skin's surface.

A healthcare professional then lightly pricks or scratches the skin to allow the allergen to penetrate slightly. If you are allergic to a specific substance, a small raised bump resembling a mosquito bite will appear within 15-20 minutes.

  • Patch Test:

The patch test is primarily used to diagnose contact allergies, which occur when the skin comes into direct contact with allergens, leading to localized irritation or rash. During the test, small patches containing potential allergens, such as metals, fragrances, or chemicals, are applied to the skin, typically on the back.

These patches remain in place for 48 hours to allow for delayed allergic reactions to develop. After this period, the patches are removed, and the skin is examined for any signs of redness, inflammation, or itching.

  • Elimination Diet:

An elimination diet is a systematic approach to identifying food allergies or intolerances. It involves removing suspected trigger foods from your diet for a period of time, usually a few weeks.

During this elimination phase, you carefully monitor your symptoms to see if they improve. Afterward, one by one, you reintroduce the eliminated foods back into your diet while closely observing for any adverse reactions.

Conclusion

Allergies can significantly impact a person's quality of life, and knowing the specific triggers is crucial for effective management. Understanding the types of allergies and utilizing appropriate allergy tests can aid in pinpointing allergens accurately.

If you suspect you have allergies, consult an allergist or immunologist to discuss your symptoms, medical history, and undergo the necessary tests to achieve a better quality of life with proper allergy management. Remember, knowledge is key to living comfortably with allergies.

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