Research is still being conducted as to what causes allergies and if they can be prevented. For now the best offense is still a good defense—try to stay away from any known allergens and have a detailed action plan in place along with appropriate medication to use in case of a reaction. Undergoing a desensitization program such as for stinging insect allergies may also be a good idea to discuss with a medical professional.
For an anaphylactic reaction, administer an epinephrine auto-injector, then call 911 immediately. For more information, click here.
Depending on the type of allergy a variety of things can be done to help with diagnosis including skin testing, blood testing, challenge testing, patch testing and elimination testing.
Skin test. The skin test involves pricking or injecting small amounts of allergens onto the back or inner forearm and waiting approximately 15 minutes to see if an allergic reaction such as inflamed skin or hives occurs, thus indicating an allergy.
Blood test. The blood test generally measures the amount of IgE in the blood that reacts with the specific allergen being tested. IgE is an antibody produced by the immune system in response to allergic sensitization.
Challenge test. A challenge test consists of a suspected allergen being inhaled or eaten. It is usually only conducted for food and medication allergies and always must be well supervised by a doctor in case of severe reaction.
Patch test. In a patch test, various possible allergens are applied to areas of a person's back and then held in place with adhesive for two days. This is mainly used to determine causes of skin rashes or contact dermatitis.
Elimination test. The elimination test involves the individual removing foods or medications that are suspected allergens from his or her diet to see if there is an improvement. If there is, then the food or medication is reintroduced to see if the problem arises again.
Allergies are generally believed to be caused by a combination of genetics and the environment. If both a person's parents have allergies, the child is at a 50 percent greater risk of having allergies as well.
Good to Know
While a person can inherit the genetic tendency to have an allergy from his or her parents, the exact allergen itself is not inherited.