Do you ever experience a rash, swelling, or shortness of breath after exposure to a substance? You could have an allergy. While we’re all familiar with classic culprits, like pollen, peanuts, or eggs, there are hundreds of potential allergens lurking in the world.
How are you supposed to know which one is affecting you? That’s the role of allergy testing in the UK.
Whether you’ve got a food allergy or are sensitive to a particular plant, numerous allergy testing options exist on the market. But which UK allergy test should you pick? And when should you perform a test?
Below we cover everything you need to know about allergy testing in the UK, including the ins and outs of food allergy testing.
What is Allergy Testing in the UK?
An allergy test is simple: introduce multiple potential allergens and see if a reaction occurs. The stronger and more visible the reaction, the more sensitive a person is to that substance.
Different UK allergy tests work in separate ways:
- Skin prick tests apply a drop of liquid containing the allergen to the skin alongside a small prick. After around 15 minutes, the area is checked to see if an itchy red bump appears.
- Patch testing works similarly, applying a small amount of a suspected allergy to a metal disc that is taped to your skin. Forty-eight hours later, the area is checked for a reaction.
- Elimination diets are common in food allergy testing. Certain foods are removed from your diet one by one to see if your symptoms change.
- Blood tests measure the presence of an antibody to a specific allergen.
At Test Your Intolerance, our comprehensive Allergy & Intolerance Test is a blood test. We take a small blood sample and use it to test for specific IgE and IgG4 antibodies – the active agents in an allergic reaction. We test for 117 common triggers: 38 allergies (food & environment) and 79 tolerances (food).
Common Allergies in the UK
According to Allergy UK, the UK has some of the highest rates of allergic conditions in the world – around 1 in 5 people are affected. Some research places the rate even higher at 44% of British adults suffering from at least one allergy.
These allergies span everything from food to plants to chemical substances. However, the most common food allergies are:
- Cow’s milk or dairy
- Food additives, e.g., sulphites and benzoates
- Tree nuts
In addition to food allergies, individuals are often allergic to pollen, dust mites, drugs (e.g., penicillin), natural materials (e.g., latex), certain plants, and more.
Depending on the individual’s immune system, these allergies may present differently. Some individuals get asthma or allergic rhinitis, while others experience a mild rash or go into full-blown anaphylaxis. What’s important is identifying the underlying cause of the reaction.
Food Allergy Testing: What You Need to Know
It’s estimated that between 1-10% of adults and children have a food hypersensitivity. The list of potential food allergies is long. Consider performing a food allergy test if you experience the following symptoms:
- Dizziness or lightheaded
- Swelling of lips, eyes, or face
- Coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Sneezing or running nose
- Stomach ache
- Vomiting or nausea
- Red, raised rash (hives or urticaria)
As before, food allergy testing relies on either a skin-prick test, a blood test, or an elimination diet. Food intolerances tend to involve an IgG4 response, whereas food allergies are predominantly IgE-related.
How to Perform a UK Allergy Test
Skin Prick Test
- Clean a skin area on your arm or back with alcohol.
- Apply drops of different allergens onto this area.
- Prick or scratch the skin lightly to let the allergens in.
- After 15-20 minutes, any red, itchy bump can indicate an allergy.
- Discuss results with the doctor.
- Draw a small sample of blood from your arm.
- Send the blood sample to a laboratory.
- The lab exposes your blood to allergens and checks for antibodies.
- Your doctor interprets the results based on the number of antibodies.
- Identify suspected allergenic foods with your doctor or dietician.
- Eliminate these foods from your diet for 2-3 weeks.
- Keep a food diary to monitor symptoms.
- Gradually reintroduce the foods, monitoring for symptom return.
- Discuss findings with your doctor or dietitian.
Knowledge is power when it comes to managing allergies. Undertaking an allergy test helps you better understand your body’s responses to various substances. It’s an essential first step on your path to healthier living and improved well-being. Order a UK allergy test today – it’s an investment in your long-term health.