It is important for individuals to be properly diagnosed to receive adequate medical care. Identifying the causal allergen is an important step in taking control of allergies, allowing individuals to reduce exposure to the substances that trigger symptoms1.
The diagnosis of both respiratory and food allergies is based on clinical history, physical examination, allergy tests and specific questions1.
Two diagnostic methods are available for medical practitioners to identify the triggering allergens in individuals: prick tests and blood tests. For food allergy, an additional test called an oral food challenge may also be performed.
Prick tests: via a prick to the skin, the individual is exposed to the suspected allergen and monitored. After approximately 20 minutes, the skin is observed for any signs of reaction to one or several of the allergens: redness, swelling, itching.
Blood tests: allergen blood tests detect allergen-specific antibodies in the blood. Blood test results are available in a few days.
Oral food challenge2: for food allergies, even after prick and blood testing it may be difficult to confirm whether a person has an allergy or has outgrown it. To help confirm the diagnosis, medical practitioners may perform an “oral food challenge”. During the oral food challenge, which takes place in a medical setting under medical supervision, the patient is fed gradually increasing amounts of the suspected food in timed intervals. During the feeding, there is a risk of an allergic reaction, which can be severe. Should an allergic reaction occur during the feeding, the reaction is managed by medical personnel, the allergy is confirmed, and correct advice for management is provided.