If an allergy is suspected, it is important to identify the cause. Correct medication can then be prescribed and appropriate allergen avoidance measures taken. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the allergen tests available. Frequently used tests include:
Skin prick test
A small needle is used to prick tiny drops of purified allergens into the skin. If the person is allergic to a particular allergen – the skin around the spot reddens, becomes itchy, and produces a white swelling called a weal. The reactions will fade within a few hours. This test is usually carried out on the arm, but in children may be carried out on the back.
A blood sample is tested for immunoglobulin E antibodies against different allergens in the Radio AllergoSorbent Test (RAST) or CAP-RAST. Over 400 different allergens can be tested.
This test is mainly used for allergens that cause a reaction when they are in contact with the skin. Allergens may, for example, include cosmetics, preservatives, and solvents. Each allergen is placed under a special disc that is kept in place for 48 hours. The areas of skin in contact with the allergen are then assessed for any allergic changes such as reddening or itchiness.
Carried out under supervision in a hospital or clinic, this involves testing individuals with suspected allergens under controlled conditions to see if they result in an allergic reaction.
Eczema is a skin condition that affects one in five school age children and one in twelve adults. It is characterised by reddened, dry hot and itchy skin, which can become broken, “weep”, and bleed.
There are many types of eczema that although they are similar in appearance, have different causes and treatment.
Atopic eczema is closely linked to hay fever and asthma. It is thought to have a hereditary component and individuals with atopic eczema may be allergic to environmental allergens, in particular house dust mite allergen. Controlling exposure to these allergens could significantly help to reduce the number and severity of eczema flares.
Other types of eczema can be caused by irritants, (including chemicals, yeast growths and allergens like nickel), and can be affected by circulatory problems in the middle to late years of life (for example, varicose eczema). Diet has also been implicated as a cause, or trigger, in eczema.
There is no cure, but the condition can be controlled by medication (mainly topical treatments) and avoidance of factors, such as allergens, that make the condition worse.
ActivAllergy Mite-Alert is a simple, quick and cost effective test for house dust mite allergens helping allergy sufferers to accurately “see” the levels of the allergen present in their environment. By pinpointing these “hotspots” of high allergen content allergen avoidance methods can be applied more effectively with the minimum of effort.