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Allergies and Asthma > Allergy test results

Allergy test results

How can I tell how severe an allergy is from the test?

Short answer: You can't.

Long answer: Blood testing is very good when the results are negative. That means there is no allergy. If it is positive, it may mean there is an allergy, but it doesn't mean that allergy is severe. The numbers reported on allergy tests can be high or low, but the reaction that occurs with exposure is a better predictor of the severity of allergy.

How do I use these results?

We use allergy test results to avoid the things we are allergic to if possible (such as certain foods or animals). If we cannot avoid altogether, we can use seasons to guide when to treat with medication, such as adding the medicine during ragweed season then stopping it if that is the only thing we are allergic to.

Food allergies

Food allergies are treated by avoidance primarily, so it is important to document a true allergy, not just a positive blood test. Most kids don’t have symptoms with many of the foods they might test positive to, which is one reason many allergists are not recommending food allergy panels any more. If you don’t notice problems with that food, you can still eat it. Some kids seem to have obvious reactions on several occasions to a food that shows no allergy on testing. We recommend to avoid that food since the symptoms show allergy.

With all positive food allergy testing (except nuts — see below) we suggest an avoidance diet followed by trial of the food to see if the testing matches the symptoms. Sometimes the tests show a reaction, but the child does not show a reaction. Those foods are ok to feed.
 
  • Start with a 2-week period of none of the foods that show an allergy.
  • Add one thing at a time each week to watch for symptoms. Symptoms might be vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, irritability.
  • If the symptom is mild, you can stop that food again and re-try in a couple months. The reason for that is it is possible to be reacting to something else, and you want to be sure it is a true allergic reaction. Also, with most foods, kids lose the allergy after avoidance.
  • If it is a noticeable reaction with introducing a food, this indicates a true allergy: keep off that food entirely for 6 months. We usually suggest every 6 months trying the food again starting with small quantities and gradually increasing as long as there are no symptoms. For instance, an infant with milk allergy can be on soy formula until the 1st birthday, and then try milk products at 1 year. If symptoms return, return to soy formula (not skim milk at this age!) until 18 months, then try again.
  • With multiple food allergies, resume only one food at a time.
  • With nut allergies the story changes. Nut allergies tend to get worse with time, not better. With those, we tell parents to avoid nuts. After a year we can re-test to see if the nut reaction is still there (sometimes the tests over read).If it is still there, avoid all nuts. If it is not there, we will discuss whether or not to do a trial.
It is very important to read food labels and learn the different ways that a food might be listed. There are wonderful websites listed below that you can learn more about food allergies.

For more information on food allergies, please visit the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, as well as The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis NetworkKids with Food Allergies also has some great information.

Environmental allergies

Some people can avoid cats, dogs, or other environmental allergens. Some allergens, such as molds and pollens can never be entirely eliminated.
 
  • Monitoring symptoms and using resources, such as the Internet, to guide when to begin medications is a good strategy. One site for monitoring allergens: Pollen.com.
  • Use symptoms and allergy levels to stop medication when a season is over.
  • Some allergens are year round, and it is safe to continue medications year round. Some people require a baseline medicine year round, and add a second medicine during peak seasons. This also is okay. Check with your doctor to see what is right for your symptoms.

Other strategies for helping allergies

  • Shower before bed. Sleeping with pollen or other allergens (and irritants such as cigarette smoke) can increase symptoms because you roll around on the pillow, re-breathing all the particles.
  • Nasal rinses with saline. Flushing all the pollen and irritants out of the nasal passageways with saline, available at pharmacies, is a safe and effective way to control symptoms. Saline is now available with xylitol, which may prevent ear and sinus infections (both are complications of chronic congestion from allergies). Learn how to make your own saline solution here.
  • Wash sheets weekly.
  • Wash eyelids. If eye symptoms are present, washing the eyelashes after being outdoors can remove pollen.
For More Information: 

IgG testing, hair analysis, and applied kinestheology are NOT recommended. For more information read Allergy Testing: When to Use It and When Not To.

Guidelines on the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States is a comprehensive document that outlines diagnosing and managing food allergies. It discusses the types of testing that are recommended (and their limitations) as well as the types of testing that are NOT recommended, but some providers still order. It is important to note that it was developed in 2011. The recommendations for influenza vaccine for those with egg allergy has changed since then. It is no longer contraindicated. Talk with your doctor about flu vaccines if there is an egg allergy.

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