Allergy Testing










About Allergy Testing



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Allergy testing is gaining in importance today as about 1/3 of Americans suffer from annoying allergy symptoms that results in doctor's visits and trips to the pharmacy. These symptoms are characterized by runny nose, fatigue, headaches, postnasal drip, sneezing, watery eyes, stomach upset, diarrhea, lethargy, breathing trouble, hives, itchiness, and anaphylaxis. Symptoms can occur during specific seasons, such as pollen season, or they can occur throughout the entire year, as with those induced by dust mites and dust. Considering the physical suffering, lost productivity at work, and tremendous health care cost caused by allergies, it is prudent for sufferers to identify their allergens through allergy testing.

There are many types of testing methods for allergens such as foods, vitamins, chemicals, pollens, dust mites, and animal dander. Each method has its own advantages and limitations. Though many consider medicine to be an exact science, in reality, the accuracy of these allergy tests many times depends on the skill of the doctors and lab technicians that perform them. Let’s take a look at some of the more common types of tests commonly performed by physicians today.



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Percutaneous Testing



This is the skin prick allergy test that many of us are familiar with. It is commonly performed on the back or arm, where allergens are introduced at particular distances apart from one another, and the test typically contains a scientific control. That is, you will be tested for the actual diluted substance that contains the allergen to make sure you are not allergic to it. Also, you will most likely be tested for histamine as well.

Since the skin reactions that adults experience usually decline with age, percutaneous testing is less accurate as patients reach their twenties and beyond. This type of test also has limitations because it only measures a fast onset type of IgE hypersensitivity; that is, it measures immunoglobulin-E mediated food allergies that have an acute onset, from a few seconds, to about one hour.

A word of caution. If a patient is taking certain types of drugs, these must be stopped before the testing is administered. Your doctor will usually tell you to stop using antihistamines, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and steroid medications prior to your test. These medications can interefere with the accuracy of your test.



Intradermal Testing



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Let’s say a patient tests negative for specific allergens on the percutaeous test, but that patient still seems to suffer from allergic reactions to those substances, in spite of his negative allergy test results. That is when your doctor may decide to perform the intradermal test. In this case, he may feel that the percutaneous test is just not sensitive enough to identify the offending allergen. Another situation in which doctors may perform this test is for patients over thirty years of age, since the percutaneous test is not as accurate for people in this age range.

This test involves the injection of a highly diluted allergen extract into a patient’s arm. After the injection, the physician measures changes at the injection site, such as the size of swelling and the degree of redness that occurs. A limitation of this test is that false positive reactions do occur, and control measures must be included in the test in order to ensure accuracy of the results. Despite its limitations, intradermal testing is a widely used allergy test.






ImmunoCap Test



This test, developed by Pharmacia Diagnostics, is a blood allergy test that can identify more than 500 different food and environmental allergens. Unlike the traditional skin prick test in which allergen samples are placed under a patient’s skin with needles, ImmunoCap measures the amount of Immunoglobulin E antibodies in a patient’s blood sample. This test differs from prior blood allergy tests in that aside from measuring the presence of Immunoglobulin E antibodies, it also measures the amount of IgE by reporting the number of kilo-units per liter; thus indicating the degree to which a patient is sensitive to an allergen.

Purported advantages of the ImmunoCap test include the fact that it can be performed on children three months of age and older, it can often be completed by analyzing just one blood sample, and it has an accuracy rate of approximately 97%. In addition, patients do not have to stop taking their medication before the test, the test is appropriate for patients with skin conditions, and there is no risk of anaphylaxis during the test since patients are not directly exposed to potential allergens.



In Vitro Antibody Testing


Many have heard of the RAST as it has been around a while. This is a blood allergy test that determines whether Immunoglobulin-E antibodies are directing themselves against an allergen. This allergy test is a good alternative for people who are advised not to take the skin-prick test; people who can not miss their medication, for example, or those individuals who are so highly allergic that they might have a serious reaction during the test.

When a physician wishes to assess the presence of specific IgE antibodies, allergy skin testing may be the preferred method of testing in comparison with various in vitro tests. The in vitro allergy tests are considered more sensitive and specific, simpler to use, and less expensive. However, the newer in vitro tests have shown improvements. For example, the RAST test was vastly improved in the late 1980s and shown an improvement in sensitivity as well as improved reproducible results.



Delayed Hypersensitivity Testing



The delayed hypersensitivity test is a immune function test that measures the presence of activated T cells that are present in response to allergens. Allergic reactions are measured by placing allergens on special patches and applying them onto the backs of patients. Doctors will then examine the skin under the patches at various intervals to check for swelling which is indicative of an allergy.



Meridian Stress Assessment



This is an allergy testing method often used by NAET and Bioset practitioners. Based on Chinese medicine, which teaches that all things have a distinct electromagnetic frequency of their own, an energy called “chi” flows through various meridians or pathways in the human body. A disruption in the flow of this energy can be indicative of disease or allergies. Chi can actually be measured with special electrical instruments and physicians have been utilizing this method for over thirty years; mostly in Europe and some other countries.

Biomeridian in a company in Utah that manufactures a meridian stress assessment instrument called the MSA Pro, which they refer to as a biodermal screening device. This device contains a library of electromagnetic frequencies for hundreds of potential allergens. During this type of allergy test, patients hold a metal rod in their hand while the doctor takes a probe and makes contact with the patient’s acupressure points. This is done while the specific electromagnetic frequency of allergens passes through the probe and measurements are recorded that determine if the patient is allergic to a variety of items.

There has been research conducted both in Europe and the United States to determine the reliability of Meridian Stress Assessment for allergy testing. This method has been found to be as reliable and accurate as the RAST blood allergy test. Research in Europe and the US has shown MSA allergy testing is as accurate as RAST blood testing. There may be advantages to using this test method as well. It is non-invasive, there is no risk of allergic episodes during the test, and it is usually less expensive than a blood test such as the RAST.



Muscle Testing



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This approach is based on Chinese medicine in which every substance is thought to have a distinct electromagnetic field. Therefore, if a substance is causing someone to have an allergic reaction, evidence of the reaction could be read in their own energy field through muscle testing.

Known as applied kinesiology, a practitioner such as a Bioset or NAET physician, measures the strength of a main muscle, often the shoulder muscle, to identify whether a substance is weakening a person’s energy field. A patient usually holds a suspected allergen in one hand, or he can hold a vial containing the exact electromagnetic frequency of the allergen, while extending the other arm horizontally. The doctor then pushes down on the extended arm, usually around the wrist area, to see if the shoulder muscle weakens, or whether it remains locked. If a weakened muscle is observed, the physician will treat the allergy (see our page on NAET), then muscle test the patient again.

I was initially skeptical of this procedure but after time I noticed it can be very accurate. I have gone numerous times to my NAET doctor with severe gastrointestinal distress and he would easily identify my allergy through muscle testing. After treating the allergy, my symptoms would immediately vanish.

Click here to learn to perform kinesiology allergy testing