Allergy Testing

The most important test of all is the medical history - Scott Sicherer

Allergy Testing

image by: New York Allergy and Sinus Centers Glendale
     

 

Diagnosing allergies can be difficult. A doctor will often go through several steps before making a diagnosis, including specialized tests, a comprehensive interview about your ailments, and a physical exam. But it can sometimes take several months to get a correct diagnosis. Much like a detective working on a case, your provider will need to work by collecting information from you and from the different tests they organize. Together, you may need to test a few different strategies, such as avoiding possible triggers and then reintroducing them. This process can be slow, frustrating, and anxiety provoking.

It’s no surprise, then, that many people are drawn to alternative allergy testing. Such tests can be a tempting way to get a quick answer about your allergies. But most alternative allergy tests do not have any science behind them. In other words: If a test sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And in general, these tests are more likely to do harm than good...

Some people without allergies may still be sensitive to foods. This is called a food intolerance. Food intolerance can cause some of the same symptoms as a food allergy. However, it is not caused by an immune system reaction...

There is no single test to diagnose allergies. So you should be suspicious of any test that claims to be capable of diagnosing your allergies all by itself. To diagnose allergies, doctors generally look for:

  • A history of symptoms when you are exposed to a suspected allergen (e.g., your eyes itch every time you are around cats)
  • A positive result on skin prick or blood test results
  • A positive response to an allergen challenge test

What tests to avoid

There are many tests claiming to diagnose allergies. Some of them can be found online. Others are offered by special practitioners. But, unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence behind these tests. Professional allergy organizations like the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) advise people not to use these tests...

IgG food intolerance test

What it is: This test looks for special molecules called IgG antibodies in your blood. In theory, the presence of these antibodies can show whether your immune system is sensitive (allergic) to certain foods.

The reality: IgG antibodies are also found in people without food allergies or intolerances. Having these antibodies does not mean you are sensitive to these foods. It just means your immune system has been exposed to them. Checking for these antibodies cannot diagnose a food allergy or a food intolerance.

Vega machine test

What it is: This electroacupuncture machine measures electrical resistance across your skin at various points. These measurements supposedly provide information about food and environmental allergies.

The reality: There is no scientific evidence that Vega measurements are related to allergies. Results are the same in people who do and do not have allergies. This test is not recommended for diagnosing allergies.

Hair testing

What it is: This test uses bioresonance technology to examine hair samples. In theory, certain patterns of electromagnetic resonance from a hair sample can tell you if you have food or environmental allergies.

The reality: There is no scientific evidence that hair is involved in allergic reactions.

Applied kinesiology

What it is: In this test, a patient holds a suspected allergen in their hands or mouth. A practitioner then assesses muscle weakness. This practice is supposed to determine whether an allergy is present.

The reality: There is no scientific evidence that allergies cause muscle weaknesses. Results may be influenced by the practitioner. It is not a useful tool for diagnosing allergies.

Cytotoxic tests (ALCAT, FACT, Bryan’s test)

What it is: In this test, a blood sample is mixed with a suspected allergen. The white blood cells are then monitored for injury. In theory, cell injury demonstrates whether there is an allergy.

The reality: There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. The reaction of white blood cells is unchanged whether you do or do not have an allergy.

Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET)

What it is: This is a system of diagnosing and treating allergies. The system is based on the belief that allergies are caused by an “energy blockade” and can be treated with acupuncture.

The reality: There are no published studies that say these techniques can identify and/or treat allergies.

Pulse test

What it is: In this test, a practitioner takes your pulse twice, once before you are exposed to an allergen and then again 15 minutes after exposure. In theory, your pulse will change if you are allergic to the substance.

The reality: There is no scientific evidence that there is a reliable connection between increased pulse and allergies.

What are the consequences of alternative allergy testing?

Unproven allergy testing can have serious consequences. These tests are often expensive and are usually not covered by health insurance. What’s more, they can lead to false hopes and expectations and even delay correct diagnosis and treatment.

Many people who use these tests may get an incorrect result. A wrong diagnosis can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health. It may also cause you to make unnecessary lifestyle changes, like not eating foods you enjoy. Believing you are allergic to certain substances can have a significant impact on your quality of life.

Source: Sarah Gupta MD & Sophie Vergnaud MD, The Truth About Fake Allergy Tests, GoodRx, June 8, 2020.

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Last Updated : Wednesday, March 17, 2021