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Skin Testing

Photo of a doctor placing drops of allergens on a grid on a patient's forearmAllergy testing involves either skin or blood tests. Most allergists prefer skin tests because they are safe, inexpensive and offer the most accurate results. There are several methods of testing the skin for allergies. Skin prick testing is the most widely used.

In prick testing, several drops of solution containing the suspected allergen are placed on the surface of the skin, usually the forearm or back, and allowed to penetrate. A needle is used to prick or scratch the skin where the drops are placed.

If your body is allergic to this substance, the immune system will produce molecules called immunoglobulin E. The result is swelling and redness on the skin.

Prick testing is safe and reliable. Other than a little discomfort, swelling or itching, there are no side effects to worry about. The procedure is performed in-office and should take no longer than 20 to 40 minutes. It is most often used to test for allergies to pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander and food.

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