Allergy Evaluation and Skin Testing
At the Mary Parkes Center, our pulmonary and allergy specialists collaborate to provide multi-disciplinary care to our patients. URMC is a World Allergy Organization (WAO) center of excellence. If you are referred for an allergy consultation with a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, your visit to the Center will include a detailed medical history, physical exam, and possible testing to determine if you suffer from allergies. These tests may include skin testing, blood tests, and breathing tests called Spirometry. Your allergist will determine if these tests are needed after a full review of your medical history and physical exam.
One of our physicians may order a skin test to determine what you are allergic to. A skin test is a test that measures your level of IgE antibodies in response to certain allergens or triggers. Using small amounts of solution that contain different allergens, the physician 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 you are allergic to the allergen that caused the reaction. This will be determined by your physician.
Skin testing is usually not performed on people who have had a severe life-threatening reaction to an allergen or have severe dry skin (eczema).
Immunotherapy is a treatment used to relieve allergy symptoms of hay fever or allergic asthma. It can be administered as an injection under the skin (subcutaneous) or as a tablet under the tongue (sublingual) of substances such as pollens, mold spores, dust mites, animal dander or insects to which an individual has been found to be allergic by skin testing. The mechanisms of its effect are the subject of ongoing research. However, immunotherapy initiates processes that seem to “turn off” the abnormal immune reaction that we term “allergy”.
When an allergic person is exposed to an allergenic substance (such as cat dander), they may develop symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, watery eyes, chest tightness or wheezing. Various cells that line the nose and the airways actually release chemicals termed mediators that cause these symptoms. An inflammatory reaction accompanies this process and leads to persistent symptoms. Immunotherapy probably works to interfere with the actions of these cells and to thereby diminish the effects of the chemical mediators that cause allergic symptoms.