Diagnostic Tests for Allergy in Children

These tests will help you and your child’s healthcare provider know what substances cause your child’s allergy symptoms. Knowing what substances cause the symptoms tells you what your child should avoid. It also tells your healthcare provider what treatments might reduce symptoms. Diagnostic tests for allergy may include:

  • Skin tests. The skin test is a very accurate test that measures your child’s level of IgE antibody response to certain allergens or triggers. Using small amounts of solutions that contain different allergens, your child’s doctor will either inject under the skin or apply the allergens with a small scratch. A reaction would appear as a small red area. A reaction to the skin test does not always mean your child is allergic to the allergen that caused the reaction. This will be determined by your child’s doctor.
    Skin testing may not be done on children who have had a severe life-threatening reaction to an allergen or have severe dry skin (eczema).

  • Blood tests. Blood tests for allergies measure IgE antibodies to specific allergens in the blood. The blood test most commonly used is called RAST (radioallergosorbent test). Blood tests may be used when skin tests can’t be done. As with skin testing, it is important to remember that a positive blood test does not always mean your child is allergic to that allergen.

  • Challenge test. A test supervised by an allergist who administers a very small amount of an allergen that is inhaled or taken orally.

  • Nasal smears. Nasal smears are tests done to check the amount of eosinophils in the nose. An eosinophil is a type of white blood cell that increases in number during an allergic reaction.

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