Millions of people are affected by allergies each year, a common condition that causes mild but irritating symptoms of the eyes, nose and throat.

Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system triggered by a typically harmless substance, and each person may be affected by a different substance.  It is important to determine the specific substances, known as triggers, which cause your allergic reactions.  Identifying the specific cause of your symptoms lets you avoid these triggers as often as possible to reduce the frequency of symptoms.

There are several different tests available to determine the specific cause of allergies.

Skin Tests

Skin tests involve placing or injecting certain possible allergens on the skin for a period of time to see if a reaction develops.  These allergens can be taped, scratched, pricked or injected into the skin and then observed after 24 to 72 hours for any signs of a reaction.  These tests are very sensitive, but may require extensive testing in order to determine specific triggers.


Allergy Screening

Screening for allergies is necessary in order to identify the specific allergens that trigger reactions. By identifying the specific allergens, an allergy sufferer can avoid them as much as possible to reduce the frequency of reactions.

There are several different tests available to identify allergens. Blood tests, which screen for antibodies produced in response to allergens, are commonly used. The most common blood test is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which measures the amount of immunoglobulin E in the blood. Although blood tests can find a wide range of allergies, including those that may not even produce symptoms, they are less sensitive than other tests.

Skin tests are a very effective tool in screening for allergies. In skin tests, a tiny drop of a solution that contains the possible allergen is placed on the skin, which is then scratched or pricked so that the allergen enters the body. The skin is then checked for an abnormal reaction. In this way, specific triggers of allergic response may be identified. Depending on the situation, more extensive testing may be required to determine specific triggers. Allergy skin tests are commonly administered to diagnose conditions such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and eczema, as well as allergies to foods, bee venom, latex or penicillin.

In some cases, patients may be required to stop taking antihistamines or other medications before undergoing testing. In other cases, particularly those in which patients have had prior severe allergic responses, they may be required to take antihistamines before testing begins.


Pediatric Allergy Testing

Children can develop allergies at any age, and can therefore be tested at any age as well. While determining specific allergies is not always necessary in young children, it can help diagnose recurring colds, runny noses or sinus infections.

Allergy testing can be performed through a skin allergy test to help diagnose allergic conditions, including:

  • Food allergies
  • Hay fever
  • Dermatitis
  • Allergic asthma
  • Penicillin allergy
  • Bee venom allergy
  • Latex allergy

Allergy testing may also be performed with a radioallergosorbent (RAST) test, a blood test that examines antibody levels in response to common allergens. The doctor will determine which type of allergy testing is best for the child, based on their condition.


Medication Allergy

A medication allergy is a condition that causes a person to experience some type of adverse reaction initiated within the immune system after taking a particular medicine. Medication allergies are fairly common and they can be elicited by many kinds of drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter. The patient may experience a wide range of symptoms that can be mild,moderate or even potentially deadly.

Causes Of Medication Allergy

In some people, the immune system perceives a medication as a foreign substance that it needs to attack. Therefore, it creates antibodies to the drug as it would to combat a virus or other invader. The reaction typically does not occur instantaneously with the initial dosage of the medication because it takes the body time to produce the antibodies that result in the symptoms. Sometimes a medication has been taken in the past with no problem at all. But once an allergy develops, the white blood cells begin to generate histamines and other chemicals that cause various allergic responses in the body. This can take place anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks after taking a medication.

Almost any form of medicine can cause a medication allergy, but it most commonly occurs in patients taking:

  • Antibiotics
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Sulfa drugs
  • Insulin
  • Chemotherapy drugs

Symptoms Of Medication Allergy

The symptoms produced by a reaction to a medication allergy can vary widely in both their nature and their severity. Some of the common symptoms a patient may experience include a rash on the skin, itchiness of the skin or eyes and the development of hives. In other cases, the patient may begin wheezing or portions of the face or tongue may become swollen.

The most severe type of reaction is known as anaphylaxis, which can be very dangerous and requires prompt medical attention. An anaphylactic allergic reaction causes extreme symptoms that may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hives that spread across the body
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rapid pulse and heartbeat

Diagnosis Of Medication Allergy

An allergic reaction to medication can usually be diagnosed by asking a few questions about the symptoms that have developed and by conducting a physical examination. Any hives or rashes on the skin and swollen areas will be examined, as well as the patient’s breathing to detect wheezing. A blood test or skin test may be performed to confirm an allergy to certain kinds of drugs, but these methods of testing are not able to determine an allergy to all types of medications. Once a medication allergy has been diagnosed, it is important for the patient to include that information on all medical forms to ensure that the drug that causes the reaction is not prescibed.

Treatment Of Medication Allergy

The treatment of a medication allergy typically begins with discontinuing the usage of the drug that caused the reaction. After that point if symptoms are still present, the patient may need to take a different type of medication to obtain relief from the allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are often effective for reducing itchiness, hives and rashes. More pronounced reactions often respond to corticosteroid treatment that can be applied topically, taken orally or provided intravenously. If wheezing is occurring, a bronchodilator medication may be used to open the airways and make breathing more comfortable.

In the case of an anaphylactic reaction to a medication, an injection of epinephrine will need to be administered as quickly as possible to ;stop the symptoms from worsening. At that point the patient will be monitored and some combination of the above-mentioned treatments will be used in order to alleviate the symptoms.