Four out of 100 children in the U.S. have food allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you suspect that your child is part of this group, allergy testing is a must-do. Understanding why testing is so important, how it's done, and who is doing it can help to ease the process for both you and your child. Before your child's first appointment, check out these need-to-know answers to some of the top questions on the subject.
Why Get Tested for Allergies?
The most obvious answer is that your child has had some sort of reaction. Of course, if the reaction was life-threatening or an emergency situation, going to the emergency room immediately is absolutely crucial. If the reaction is more bothersome than anything else, your child will need a test to confirm what the allergen is. In some cases, the reaction happens right after eating a specific food. In others, it's not as noticeable. If you're not sure what's causing the allergy, it's impossible to prevent it from happening again. Testing can confirm (or rule out) specific foods, making it easier to prevent and treat the problem.
How Do Allergy Tests Work?
There are two main types of allergy tests—blood and skin tests. Blood tests are used to measure antibodies to foods. The specific antibody that doctors look for is called immunoglobulin E or IgE. These tests can take several days to get back. Skin tests, like the name says, are done on the skin. The doctor will prick your child's arm with a drop of the allergen or allergens or place the allergen under the skin. A skin reaction to the allergen is a positive test. It typically takes about 20 minutes to get the results.
Who Does Allergy Tests?
In most cases, a specialist is needed to administer allergy tests. An allergist is a doctor who has had extra training and education in the specialty. If you suspect an allergy, and you don't have an allergist, your child's pediatrician can refer you to a specialist.
What Happens After the Test?
If the allergist gives your child a positive result (finding a food allergy), the doctor will create a treatment plan. This includes both education and medical treatment. The education component may include which foods to avoid, how to read food labels, identifying other foods that could cause a reaction, and what to do in the event that the child accidentally eats the food. The medical part may include treatment for your child's current symptoms as well as prescribing an EpiPen for extreme reactions.
Food allergies in children are on the rise, according to the CDC. Getting a proper diagnosis is the first step to treating (and preventing) the allergy. With that in mind, allergy testing is essential for any child who has a reaction--even if it seems minor at the time. Talk to doctors at Premier Surgical Associates for more information about allergy testing.