You may have an allergy if you experience unexplained symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, or itchy eyes. Allergy blood tests are one way to determine the specific allergens causing your symptoms. The test results can help you, and your doctor can create a plan to treat your allergies. This post will discuss what to expect during and after an allergy blood test.
What are Allergies?
An allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system to a particular substance, known as an allergen. Common substances that can cause allergies include:
- dust mites
- pet dander
- insect stings
People suffering from allergies often experience sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and itching. In severe cases, anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction that can occur in Cheltenham or anywhere in the country.
Several types of allergies include seasonal allergies, e.g., hay fever, food allergies, drug allergies, and environmental allergies. Allergies can be treated with medication, but avoiding the allergen is often the best way to prevent symptoms.
4 Main Types of Hypersensitivity
Hypersensitivity refers to an exaggerated response by the immune system to a particular substance. It is also known as an allergy. There are four main types: Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV.
Type I Hypersensitivity
Also known as anaphylaxis or immediate hypersensitivity, it is a rapid and severe allergic reaction. The body reacts to a foreign substance, like bee venom, pollen, or a particular food, by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies attach to cells in the body and release chemicals, histamine for one, those cause symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, swelling of the throat, and a drop in blood pressure. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, and immediate medical attention is required.
Type II Hypersensitivity
An immune reaction occurs when antibodies bind to molecules on the surface of cells, causing them to be destroyed. This type of hypersensitivity can be triggered by drugs, such as penicillin or blood transfusions.
Type III Hypersensitivity
A delayed allergic reaction occurs when immune complexes (antibodies and antigens) build up in the body and deposit in various tissues, leading to inflammation and tissue damage. Type III reactions are often seen in autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Type IV Hypersensitivity
Also known as delayed hypersensitivity, it is a cell-mediated immune reaction that occurs when T cells (a type of white blood cell) recognize a foreign substance and release chemicals that cause inflammation. This hypersensitivity usually takes several days to develop and can be triggered by drugs, infections, and certain chemicals.
Emergency Response to Hypersensitivity Reactions
Allergies can happen to anyone, especially if one member of the family has an existing allergy. Severe cases of allergic reaction at home or in the workplace require a trained person knowledgeable with skills to manage critical conditions or prevent further harm to the patient. CPR First Aid at Cheltenham teaches first aid practices that can be lifesaving. Contact us for first aid and CPR courses locally and anywhere in Australia.
Can Allergies be Detected in Blood Tests?
An overreaction of the immune system can cause allergies to a certain substance, and this overreaction can be detected in blood tests. However, not all allergies can be determined through blood tests, such as food allergies.
Difference Between an Allergy Blood Test and Skin Test
An allergy skin test is when a small amount of allergen is placed on the skin, usually on the arm or back. You’ll develop a raised, itchy bump or wheal if you’re allergic to the allergen.
On the other hand, an allergy blood test is when a blood sample is taken and tested for the presence of antibodies to a particular allergen. If you have these antibodies in your blood, you’re likely allergic to the allergen. Allergy blood tests are also used to measure the level of these antibodies. This can help determine how severe your allergy is. We’ll discuss Type 1 hypersensitivity and allergy blood tests in more detail.
Types of Allergy Blood Tests
There are 2 general allergy blood tests to measure and identify IgE response.
Total IgE Test
Measures the level of immunoglobulin E (IgE) in your blood.
Specific IgE Tests
Used to help diagnose allergies to things like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and certain foods. The test can also help monitor your body’s response to allergy shots (immunotherapy).
Why Take an Allergy Blood Test?
If you have symptoms of allergy but aren’t sure what’s causing them, your doctor may recommend an allergy blood test. This test can check your immune system’s response to different substances and help pinpoint your allergies.
An allergy blood test is also known as a radioallergosorbent test (RAST). This test works by taking a small sample of your blood and adding it to different substances that may be causing your allergies. If you have an allergic reaction to one of the substances, your immune system will release antibodies in response. The test can measure the number of antibodies in your blood and give your doctor an idea of how severe your allergy is.
Conditions that may require an allergy blood test include:
- hay fever
- food allergies
Your doctor may also recommend an allergy blood test if you have a family history of allergies or if skin prick testing doesn’t give clear results.
Advantages of RAST
If you or someone you love suffers from an allergy, testing is the best method to check what you are allergic to and get relief. In summary, here are the pros of an allergic blood test:
- Highly accurate in identifying allergies.
- Can be used to identify allergies to substances that may not cause an obvious reaction, such as pollen or pet dander.
- Can be used to check the severity of an allergy and whether it is likely to cause a severe reaction.
- Can be used to monitor the response to allergy treatment.
- Relatively quick and easy to administer.
What are the Disadvantages of Allergy Blood Tests?
There are a few potential disadvantages to allergy blood tests.
- They can be expensive. Insurance may or may not cover the test cost, so it’s important to check with your provider beforehand.
- Blood tests require a trained professional to administer, which can add to the overall cost.
- Usually, it takes longer to get results back than skin prick tests. You may have to wait a bit longer to discover your allergies.
How to Prepare for the Test?
Here are some of the things you can do and remember before the blood test are:
- First, it is essential to avoid taking antihistamines for at least three days before the test. This will ensure that your body will produce enough histamine for the test.
- Second, you should drink plenty of fluids so your blood will be easy to draw.
- Finally, you should avoid eating anything for at least two hours before the test.
What to Do if You Get a False Positive Result?
A false positive allergy blood test is one where the test results show that you are allergic to a substance when in reality you are not. This can happen because of a number of different reasons, such as cross-reactivity (when another substance triggers a reaction in the body that is similar to an allergic reaction) or lab error.
While false positives are not common, they can occur, and it is vital to be aware of the possibility. If you have a positive allergy blood test but do not have any symptoms of an allergy, your doctor will likely order additional testing to confirm the results.
There is currently no cure for allergies, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms. Allergy blood tests can diagnose allergies and determine which substances a person is allergic to. These tests are generally safe and accurate.
As a Cheltenham first aider, you can advise the patient on what to prepare when a coworker or a family member decides to take an allergy blood test. If you’d like to know more about our first aid courses at Cheltenham, we’ll be happy to answer your queries at CPR First Aid.