When To Get Your Child Tested For Allergies

Unlike regular screenings, allergy tests should be done only when symptoms of allergy are present or the doctor asks for the same.

By URLife Team
09 Feb 2024

Has it ever been the case that your child constantly sneezes and sniffs while you're dusting the house, or develops hives after consuming certain foods or experiences itchiness and redness from contact with certain materials? Do they encounter breathing difficulties when exposed to pet dander or pollen?  If so, chances are they might be dealing with allergies or sensitivity to different substances in the environment.

According to a 2020 report by The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) the prevalence of allergic rhinitis was 11.3 per cent in children aged 6 to 7 years, and 24.4 per cent in children aged 13 to14 years. It also reported 2.7 per cent overall prevalence of current eczema among Indian children aged 6 to 7 years, and 3·6 per cent among Indian children aged 13 to 14 years. 

Children can develop allergies at any age. Also, determining the exact cause of your child's allergies can be quite challenging. Are they sensitive to grass, milk, eggs, penicillin, dust, pollens, or all of these? Getting allergy testing can help clarify what may be causing issues for your child and how to avoid potential triggers.

To make the process less overwhelming, we've outlined signs of allergies and when it's advisable to get your child tested.


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Symptoms of Allergies in Kids

Allergies can affect various parts of the body, usually the skin, eyes, stomach, nose, sinuses, throat, tongue, and lungs. This is because these areas have immune system cells. It's important to know that everyone reacts differently to allergens. Some kids might show just one or two symptoms, while others could have many. Also, reactions can range from mild, like sneezing, to severe, especially with certain foods or medications.

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Swelling, especially around the face
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Irritability or fussiness


Related story: Cold, Flu, or Allergy? Managing Allergies At Work


Different Allergy Tests


Skin Prick Test (Scratch Test)

During this procedure, a small amount of allergen extract is applied to the surface of the skin, usually on the forearm or back. The skin is then gently pricked or scratched, allowing the allergen to enter just beneath the skin's surface. If the person is allergic to the substance, a small raised bump, similar to a mosquito bite, will appear at the test site. The size of the bump helps determine the degree of sensitivity to that particular allergen.
This test is particularly effective in assessing immediate allergic reactions, such as those triggered by pollen, pet dander, or certain foods.


Blood Test

A blood test or specific IgE blood test is another method to identify allergic sensitivities. In this test, a blood sample is taken and analysed for the presence of specific antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) that the body produces in response to allergens. The levels of IgE antibodies can indicate the immune system's reactivity to particular substances like pollen, pet dander, foods, or other allergens.

However, it is important to note that a positive blood test does not always confirm that your child has an allergy.

The major advantage of the blood test is that it doesn't involve direct exposure to allergens, making it a suitable option for individuals with skin conditions or those who cannot undergo skin prick testing. Blood tests are especially useful when evaluating a wide range of allergens simultaneously.

Both skin and blood IgE tests can identify sensitivities, but they alone don't diagnose allergies. Sometimes, these tests may be misunderstood, causing over-diagnosis of allergies. Sensitisation doesn't always mean someone is allergic; they might tolerate the substance without any issues.


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Patch Test

In this test, small amounts of common allergens, like metals or chemicals, dyes and fragrances are applied to patches, which are then placed on the skin (usually the back). The patches stay in place for a specific period and are checked in about 72 hours, allowing for observation of any skin reactions. This helps determine if a person has sensitivities to certain substances and if those sensitivities might be causing skin-related allergic reactions.

Patch tests are valuable in diagnosing delayed allergic reactions, which may take several days to develop. They are commonly used when investigating skin conditions like eczema or rashes.


Food Challenge Test

Conducted under medical supervision, this test helps to determine if someone is truly allergic to a specific food. During the test, the child is given gradually increasing amounts of the suspected allergen through the mouth in a controlled environment, closely monitored by doctors. This helps observe any allergic reactions that may occur.

Food challenge tests are especially important in cases where allergy test results are inconclusive or when there's uncertainty about a person's tolerance to a particular food. The controlled environment allows prompt intervention if an allergic reaction occurs.


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When to Get the Allergy Tests Done?

Allergy tests are not like general checks or screenings and shouldn't be done without a reason. They are most helpful when there's a history of allergy symptoms. So, if you think your child might have allergies, it's important to talk to their doctor first. Share what you've noticed about your child's reactions or any patterns you've observed. The decision to test for allergies should be based on your child's unique situation and symptoms.

Using allergy tests as a way to check for allergies without any symptoms might not give accurate results. It's like trying to find a problem that isn't there, and this could lead to kids being wrongly thought to have allergies. So, it's best to rely on these tests when there's a real history of symptoms, helping doctors figure out the right approach for your child.


Related story: Fighting The Stomach Flu: Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention


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