What You Need to Know About Food Allergy Testing
By guest writer Angela Cortez
Allergies are on the rise in the United States. Food allergy prevalence has been found in 8% of children and 11% of adults. Symptoms commonly include more mild reactions like rashes and itching. In more severe cases, it can cause anaphylaxis which constricts the airways and drops blood pressure, and if left untreated could lead to a coma or even death. Allergic reactions can be abated with the help of antihistamines or an EpiPen, but the best way to avoid a reaction is to stay away from the food causing it altogether. If you suspect that you may be allergic to a certain food, you should undergo food allergy testing to find out what is causing your reactions. Here are some of the ways you can be tested for food allergies.
Before the tests
Prior to undergoing a food allergy test, there are some things that you can do to help your medical provider better assess your allergies. These include noting down a description of your usual reactions to certain foods. The most common symptoms of a food allergy are hives, facial swelling, a burning sensation, a runny nose, teary eyes, wheezing, nausea, diarrhea, and tingling in the mouth. Aside from listing down your reactions, you can also provide a list of the food or foods you suspect are causing a reaction and the amount of it that starts to affect you. If your family has a history of certain food allergies, you can also share that information with the medical professional you’re seeing. By providing this information before your tests, your medical provider will have a better grasp of what you need and which tests are better suited for your situation.
In an oral test, you will be given small amounts of the food that is suspected to be causing the allergic reaction. For a set period of time, your condition will be monitored in person by a medical professional to check for a reaction. If your body reacts to the food, the appropriate treatment will be administered. In some cases, you may be asked to wear a blindfold during this test. This is to guarantee that your reactions are not partly induced by mental bias. If no effects occur, you may be allowed to put these foods back into your diet.
An elimination diet is used to spot any food triggers that may be affecting your body or causing health issues. You will be asked to remove the suspected food or foods from your diet for around two to four weeks. During this period you'll monitor your body for any changes. After that time, you’ll incorporate them back into your diet one by one to check for a reaction. You should start with a small amount first and increase the portion size if there aren’t any allergy symptoms. This method is good for singling out food that could cause adverse effects to your body, but it won't give you a very thorough diagnosis. It’s also not recommended if you risk a severe allergic reaction.
Blood and skin testing
In a skin prick test, a small amount of the possible allergen is placed onto a tiny opening on the skin to allow it to get under the surface. If a raised bump forms or you develop a reaction, it could indicate an allergy. A blood test will require a blood sample to check your immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to certain foods. If there are IgE antibodies found, it may mean that you have an allergy to those foods. A medical technologist in charge will evaluate samples of your blood and skin cells, then analyze and interpret the results. Their expert analysis will ensure your results are accurate and reported on time so you can get the proper diagnosis and treatment.
After the tests
If it’s found that some foods are causing a reaction, you’ll need to make some diet and lifestyle adjustments. For starters, you’ll have to be more vigilant of the ingredients in your food, especially if you’re not eating home-cooked meals. This can cause a lot of anxiety and stress, but it’s important to always be prepared and know that you aren't alone. You can reach out to others who have allergies similar to yours and consult medical professionals to get the care you need. Over time, you’ll soon adapt to your new lifestyle and find that you’re happier and healthier with your food allergies under control.