Finding the triggering factor (allergy) is often difficult detective work. Allergy diagnosis requires extensive analysis. It is not surprising, then, that doctors often ask what plants we grow in the apartment, what kind of hobby we do, or what our workplace looks like. Thanks to such information, it is easier to reach the allergy-causing factor. The next step is to perform a specialist allergy test.
First of all, the so-called a skin test, during which one examines the reaction to various substances.
The basic type of test is called point puncture test, consisting in the application of single droplets of solutions of various types of allergens to the inner surface of the forearm skin, followed by skin puncturing with a thin needle or a special lancet. The microscopic amounts of allergen get into the skin and after 15 minutes we read the skin’s reaction to individual substances.
If the test result is positive, there will be an oval redness of the skin with accompanying itching at the place of contact with the allergen (local swelling may also appear). The reaction is caused by antibodies against the given allergen contained in the skin.
There are different types of skin test:
1 Intradermal test
A small amount of allergen is injected into the skin with a tuberculin syringe, most often into the skin of the back.
2. Skin test
A test similar to the point test. Allergen is applied with droplets on the skin of the forearm, with the difference that before it scratches the epidermis with a special lancet.
3. Rubbing test
The allergen is rubbed directly into the skin. Symptoms in the form of redness, pruritus and edema indicate a positive reaction.
To finally confirm that this and not another allergen is responsible for the symptoms occurring, the so-called provocative tests. They consist in direct contact of the mucous membrane of the upper or lower respiratory tract with the allergen. It imitates the situation in which an asthma attack occurs. Allergen is administered as a solution spotted on the nasal mucosa or inhalation, followed by a reaction.
The nasal test is not dangerous, whereas the inhalation challenge must be performed under the supervision of a specialist, because it can cause a strong fit of breathlessness.
The most important thing is to avoid contact with substances that cause allergy symptoms, so-called “Allergen isolation”. Isolation is the first, basic step that should be taken after recognizing sensitization. Sometimes it is necessary to change the lifestyle. Domestic animals should be taken care of by family or friends. For people with asthma it is strictly forbidden to keep the animals at home, even if it is not the fur which is responsible for the allergy. The occurrence of sensitization to fur in this case is only a matter of time, even if it is absent at the moment. In addition to “allergen isolation”, it is essential to avoid situations that may lead to worsening of symptoms.
Avoid smoky places, going outside, when it is cold and humid or there is fog. In winter, avoid excessive temperatures in rooms and excessive air drying. When traveling by car, ventilators should not be turned on to avoid inhaling fumes from other cars.