The kind of testing you may need will be determined by your physician, but there are some common procedures that are performed for allergy patients. Most immunology testing can be done with blood work.
Many of these tests have specific guidelines that must be followed prior to your appointment, including refraining from taking certain medications within a few days of your test, so be sure to make note of any instructions provided by your physician prior to your procedure.
Oral challenge testing is the best way to determine if a specific food or food additive is related to symptoms like wheezing, headaches, and hives or other skin reactions. The test involves swallowing a pill that contains either a substance you may be reactive to or a placebo.
During the procedure, your physician will administer breathing tests and observe any skin changes to determine what might be causing the symptoms you've reported. Increased doses will be given every 45 minutes, with a completely negative test taking up to 5.5 hours. If you experience adverse reactions during the test, you will be given an inhaled or injectable bronchodilator immediately to relieve the symptoms.
Methacholine challenge testing is used to determine airway irritability. Using a mouthpiece or facemask, the patient inhales a mist containing different concentrations of methacholine produced by a nebulizer. Before the test and after each inhalation, the patient will blow forcefully into a spirometer to determine pulmonary (lung) function.
The test takes about an hour, and while it can cause some mild reactions like shortness of breath or coughing, it will not trigger an asthma attack.
Penicillin skin tests are used to determine a patient's sensitivity to penicillin, a common allergen. Small doses of penicillin and a placebo substance will be injected into separate places on the patient's forearm. After waiting 15 minutes, the physician will check for a reaction.
Venom skin testing is performed to determine hypersensitivity to specific bee venoms. A prick test and intradermal injections will be performed in 20-minute intervals for observation.
A prick/scratch/intradermal skin test can used to determine your unique allergies to selected allergens. After the test, an individualized serum is created to treat allergic reactions with immunotherapy.
Patch testing can be used to test for certain allergies, like nickel allergies. This procedure requires patients to wear a patch, usually on their back, for several days to discover specific allergic reactions.
Pulmonary function testing involves a patient sitting inside a special chamber and breathing. This simple procedure tests lung function by measuring lung capacity; patients breathe in and out normally, take deep breaths and breathe out as fully as they can. A device called a spirometer can be used to test for conditions such as asthma.
A fiberoptic rhinolaryngoscopy procedure, which takes about 20 minutes to perform, involves inserting a scope into the patient's nostrils to visualize the nasal passages and breathing passageways down to the vocal cords. Physicians use this test to see inflammation, structural abnormalities and even damage from acid reflux.