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Allergy Testing Explained

Allergy testing At a Glance

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Formal name:
Allergen-specific IgE Antibody Test
Why Get Tested?
To help diagnose allergies; sometimes to monitor the effectiveness of immunotherapy (desensitization) treatment
When to Get Tested?
When you have symptoms such as hives, dermatitis, nasal congestion, red itchy eyes, asthma, or abdominal pain that your health care provider suspects may be caused by an allergy
A Sample is Required
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm or finger prick at home test.

No Test Preparation Needed

What is being tested?
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a class of antibody (immune protein) associated with allergic reactions. It is normally found in very small amounts in the blood. This test measures the amount of allergen-specific IgE in the blood in order to detect an allergy to a particular substance.
IgE is an antibody that functions as part of the body’s immune system, its defense against “intruders.” When someone with a predisposition to allergies is exposed to a potential allergen such as food, grass, or animal dander for the first time, that person becomes sensitized. The person’s body perceives the potential allergen as a foreign substance and produces a specific IgE antibody that binds to specialized mast cells in the skin, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tract, and to basophils (a type of white blood cell) in the bloodstream. With the next exposure, these attached IgE antibodies recognize the allergen and cause the mast and basophil cells to release histamine and other chemicals, resulting in an allergic reaction that begins at the exposure site.
Each allergen-specific IgE antibody test performed is separate and very specific: honeybee versus bumblebee, egg white versus egg yolk, giant ragweed versus western ragweed. Groupings of these tests, such as food panels or regional weed, grass, and mold panels, can be done. Alternatively, the health practitioner may pick and choose selectively from a long list of individual allergens suspected of causing a person’s allergies.

When is it ordered?
One or more allergen-specific IgE antibody tests are usually ordered when a person has signs or symptoms that suggest an allergy to one or more substances. Signs and symptoms MAY include:

**Fatigue is number one symptom!**
* Hives
* Dermatitis
* Eczema
* Red itchy eyes
* Coughing, nasal congestion, sneezing
* Itching and tingling in the mouth
* Asthma
* Abdominal pain or vomiting and diarrhea
* Bloating, excessive gas
* Skin breakouts
* Sluggish
* Stomachache, discomfort within 30 mins of eating
* Trouble concentrating, brain fog

A test may also be ordered occasionally to help evaluate the effectiveness of immunotherapy or to determine whether a child has outgrown an allergy.

Sources:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: What are allergies?
American College of Allergy, Asthma,
American Academy of Family Physicians: Food Allergies
Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)
Nemours Foundation: All About Allergies
American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: What is Allergy Testing
American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: Tips to Remember: Allergy Testing
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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