Home allergy testing can offer a convenient way for people to determine whether or not they have an allergy to a certain substance. These products are available for purchase online and at many drug stores and pharmacies. However, home allergy tests are not always reliable. People should interpret their results with caution and contact a physician or immunologist for further testing. This article discusses the uses and reliability of home allergy testing, some products available to buy online, and when to contact a doctor.
What are home allergy tests used for?
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology states that allergies occur when a person’s immune system mistakenly believes that a substance is harmful. When the body comes into contact with this substance, it produces antibodies to protect itself. These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, including histamine, that causes an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction commonly causes inflammation and irritation. In severe cases, exposure to an allergen can lead to anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
Some common allergens include:
- dust mites
- insect bites
- animal dander
- medications or drugs
How reliable are home allergy tests?
A doctor or immunologist can diagnose an allergy after performing a skin test. This often involves pricking the skin with a needle or plastic tip that has a common allergen. Many home allergy tests work by obtaining a blood sample with a finger stick. However, this method may not be a reliable way to determine whether or not a person has allergies.
Home tests looking for immunoglobulin G (Ig4) in the blood are unlikely to provide accurate results, as this antibody is present in people who do and do not have substance allergies. Scientists do not recommend reliable source Ig4 testing. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the presence of Ig4 in the blood is due to an allergy or sensitivity.
A person using a home allergy test will likely find it beneficial to follow up the test results with a physician or immunologist. Some allergy tests can give a false positive or false-negative result. It is important to consult a healthcare professional for further testing, especially if a person is testing for food allergies.
When to contact a doctor
A home allergy test should not replace a visit to a doctor or immunologist. These tests may not always be accurate, so a person should interpret their results with caution and seek follow-up tests with a healthcare professional. The American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology recommends consulting a healthcare professional if:
- A person’s allergies cause chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion, or shortness of breath.
- A person experiences hay fever or other allergy symptoms for several months out of the year.
- Over-the-counter medications do not help or cause unpleasant side effects.
- Allergies interfere with a person’s daily activities or decrease their quality of life.
- A person experiences warning signs of severe asthma, such as shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, frequent shortness of breath or tightness in the chest, or frequent asthma attacks.
Fast facts on treating an allergic reaction:
- Most mild allergy symptoms can be treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, or decongestants.
- Saline nasal washes can be used for allergy symptoms related to congestion.
- Corticosteroid creams can treat allergy-related rashes.
- Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option for chronic allergy symptoms.
- Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and people should call 911 if they suspect someone is having an anaphylactic reaction.