Health&Wellness Magazine May 2016 - Page 21

FAMILY DOC For advertising information call 859.368.0778 or email | May 2016 –COLUMN PROVIDED BY– & 21 859.278.5007 | 1175 Alysheba Way, Lexington KY Testing for Allergies By Dr. Keith Applegate Asthma and allergies affect more than 60 million Americans, but these conditions are often overlooked. Testing for allergies can help you discover what you might be allergic to and enable your physician to prescribe treatment. Allergy tests are usually combined with a physical examination and medical history. Testing done by an allergist or family practice physician is generally safe and effective for adults and children of all ages. There are two main types of allergy testing: skin or scratch testing and in vitro or blood testing. Skin or scratch testing is also known as a puncture or prick test. Scratch testing involves placing a very small amount of an extract containing possible allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites and animal dander in a small indentation or prick on the surface of the skin. The skin is scratched with a needle at the extract site, and the areas are inspected after several minutes for signs of redness and/or swelling. A number of variables influence reactivity, including the patient’s age and the color of his or her skin. The drawbacks for this type of testing include the need for multiple intradermal injections. It is also more painful and takes up to 20 minutes to perform. The strength or quality of the extract used in the test may vary, and some medications such as antihistamines, beta blockers and sleep aids interfere with results. You must stop taking these medications prior to undergoing testing. It is also difficult to reproduce the results. There may be a risk of anaphylactic shock if your body reacts unexpectedly to one of the allergens. Allergy blood testing detects and measures the amount of allergenspecific antibodies in your blood. This type of test can be used when skin tests might be unsafe or if the patient prefers a blood draw. A lab will test the blood sample to measure the level of a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E or IgE. The body makes IgE in response to certain allergens. IgE levels are usually higher in patients with allergies or asthma. Allergy blood tests usually screen for at least 10 of the most common allergy triggers, including dust, pet dander, trees, grasses, weeds and molds that grow where you live. The tests are also particularly helpful for diagnosing food allergies. In vitro tests are more specific than scratch testing. They offer a shorter testing time, and patients don’t have to stop taking their medications. In vitro tests work better for patients with skin problems, those who cannot tolerate the many needle scratches required for skin testing and those who have an unstable heart condition or poorly controlled asthma. The results indicate the degree of patient sensitivity to particular allergens, which helps predict initial doses for immunotherapy. With in vitro (blood) tests, there is no risk of anaphylactic shock, and the patient’s age or skin color does not affect reactivity. The test can be customized, and a serum sample may be stored for later testing of additional allergens. Be sure to discuss your allergy-testing options thoroughly with your physician. About the Author A Louisville native, Dr. Keith Applegate joined Family Practice Associates of Lexington in 1987. Dr. Applegate’s objective is “to have a helpful and rewarding doctor-patie