1-in-3 children have an allergy, however, many parents do not know it. Allergy testing is safe for children of all ages, but testing can make children anxious. Early allergy intervention has shown it can prevent children who have allergic rhinitis from getting asthma. Allergies can also lead to poor school attendance and even affect the quality of children’s play.
Some parents remember a severe version of an allergy test from their childhood, however, testing has evolved and is not painful. While the cause of allergies is not exactly known, allergies often run in families. This leads some parents to decide to get their child tested because they had allergies as a child.
A Pediatrician may also recommend the test if they see telltale signs of allergies. These signs include nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, allergic “shiners” and itching of the nose, eyes or skin with no fever present. Many of our doctors are trained to treat children, as they are board certified in pediatrics as well as allergy/immunology.
Types of Allergy Testing:
Our allergists diagnose allergies in children with the combination of an allergy skin test or scratch test and patient medical history. Allergy skin testing involves a simple series of tiny scratches on the back using a small instrument similar to a small plastic toothpick. Each toothpick contains trace amounts of an allergen. We test for a variety of environmental allergens such as tree, weed, and grass pollen, as well as, pet dander and molds. If you have a specific allergen you would like to be tested for, please let our offices know when scheduling. After a nurse administers the test, reactions may take 15-20 minutes to appear. Typical reactions are mild and will cause a small, itchy bump like a mosquito bite.
An allergist reviews the reactions and determines if additional testing is needed. In these cases, intradermal testing may need to be done on the forearm to provide more detailed results. During these tests, a small amount of the allergen is injected under the skin of the arm to see if it causes a reaction.
Another option is a blood test. This requires a simple blood draw that is sent off to the lab to determine if IgE levels suggest an allergy. A blood test can be used if a patient is already on antihistamines but is less accurate than skin test when diagnosing allergies.
If you suspect a food allergy, we recommend bringing a journal of what your child ate and when the reactions occurred. Our doctors may administer skin testing or recommend a blood test to determine allergies, although false positives are possible in these tests. Another option is an in-office food challenge to assess the reaction.
Tips to Prepare Your Child for Allergy Testing:
We require patients to stop certain medications 3-5 days before the test. If your child is already on antihistamines, other allergy medication, or is taking over-the-counter cold medicines, they should be stopped, as they may interfere with the test results. Please see a complete list here.
Bring a Distraction
We recommend bringing a comfort toy, book, or an electronic tablet to distract your child. While it is not painful after the skin test, patients may get itchy and uncomfortable from the reactions. A toy can help pass time and distract them during the long initial appointment.
Talking to Your Child About the Allergy Test
Tests and going to the doctor can sound scary to a child. Reassure them that the test will not be painful, and explain to them it is necessary to learn what they are allergic to and will help them feel better.
Another benefit of skin testing is that you will leave the appointment knowing what allergens are bothersome to your child. Our allergists will work with you to develop an action plan, whether it’s a combination of avoidance and medication or allergy shots to desensitize them to their allergens. If diagnosed with a food allergy, our allergists prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector and give our patients a plan to help avoid the allergen.
If you have additional questions about how to prepare for your visit, contact our offices at 800.999.1249.