If your doctor suspects that you have allergies, the next step will be to use any of a number of conventional testing methods to determine which allergens cause your body to react and which do not. After all, if you don't know what substances you're allergic to, you can't take the proper steps to avoid them.
Because allergies can be extremely difficult to identify, patients aren't always the best judges of what's bugging them. For example, when Mayo Clinic researchers asked 100 patients to predict which substances they were allergic to before getting a skin test, most of them flunked. Eighty-eight percent of them incorrectly guessed they were allergic to mold, and more than 70% of them incorrectly guessed they were allergic to dust mites and tree, grass, and weed pollen. The message is clear: Get tested, even if you're "sure" that you know your enemy.
Here are the tests most commonly used by conventional allergists.
Skin tests Drops of suspected allergens are either placed onto or injected into your skin. If you're allergic to the substance, a round wheal or flare will form on your skin after 15 to 20 minutes.
Blood tests These tests measure either the total amount of immunoglobulin E, or IgE, in your bloodstream or the IgE that's specific to certain allergens, such as ragweed pollen. When IgE comes in contact with an allergen, it releases chemicals such as histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes. These chemicals cause the symptoms of allergies.
Pulmonary function tests To measure your airflow, you blow into a device called a spirometer. Then a reading is taken. If asthma is suspected, you are given a bronchodilator and are then tested again. If your airflow improves, it's a good indication that asthma is present.
Patch tests A piece of blotting paper is soaked with the suspected allergen, then it is taped to your skin for 24 to 48 hours. If a rash develops on the site, it's a sign of eczema.
Provocation tests Performed only if specific allergy testing is not available, these tests require you to inhale or swallow a very small amount of the suspected allergen so that your reaction to it can be observed. Because of the risk of serious reactions, these tests must be done only under a doctor's supervision.
Excerpted from Allergy Free Naturally. Order by calling (800) 848-4735.
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