Allergy testing: Common questions and answers

Ku Lang Chang, Juan Carlos Guarderas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An estimated 10% to 30% of the global population has an allergic disease. Clinical presentations of allergic diseases, respiratory infections, and autoimmune conditions have similar features. Allergy and immunologic testing can help clarify the diagnosis and guide treatment. Immediate immunoglobulin E (IgE) and delayed T cell–mediated reactions are the main types of allergic responses. The allergens suspected in an immediate IgE-mediated response are identified through serum IgE-specific antibody or skin testing. For patients with an inhalant allergy, skin or IgE-specific antibody testing is preferred. In patients with food allergies, eliminating the suspected allergenic food from the diet is the initial treatment. If this is ineffective, IgE-specific antibody or skin testing can exclude allergens. An oral food challenge should be performed to confirm the diagnosis. Patients with an anaphylactic reaction to an insect sting should undergo IgE-specific antibody or skin testing. Skin testing for penicillin has a high negative predictive value and can help when penicillin administration is indicated and there are limited alternatives. Testing for other drug allergies has less well-determined sensitivity and specificity, but can guide the diagnosis. Patch testing can help identify the allergen responsible for contact dermatitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-39
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Family Physician
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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