Allergies are common but they’re often not diagnosed. Are you curious about the symptoms you’re experiencing and suspect might be caused by an allergy? Have you wondered if a home allergy test could provide you with some answers?
In this article we’re going to be looking at home allergy tests. We’re going to explain what home allergy tests are all about and how they might be able to help you. We’re interested in the kind of home allergy tests that have a proven scientific basis. Specifically, we’re taking a closer look at home-to-lab allergy blood tests and allergy self-test kits testing for Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.
It can be challenging to know what the best treatment for your symptoms is if you’re not sure what’s causing them. An at-home allergy test is one way to find out what might be triggering your symptoms. Home allergy testing can be done quite easily. And having the right information can help you to understand and better manage your symptoms.
It can be challenging to know what’s the best treatment for your symptoms if you’re not sure what’s causing them.
A home allergy test on its own won’t tell you if you have allergy though. An accurate diagnosis of allergy requires both a test and a consultation with your health care provider. Your medical history is the fundamental link between your allergy test results and being diagnosed with allergy. A home allergy test can help you prepare for an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your symptoms. Only a health care provider can give you a diagnosis of allergy and access to the whole range of allergy management options.
There are lots of different at-home allergy tests available. But if you want to get an idea of what might be causing your symptoms choose a test that detects IgE.
Identifying specific IgE is a science-based method to pinpoint potential allergens. Allergy blood tests performed by health care providers are based on the same principle.
Watch out for test kits that detect Immunoglobulin G (IgG) or Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. It’s such a similar name to IgE but IgG and IgA antibodies cannot be used to get an indication of potential allergy triggers.
Many home allergy tests you can buy in a store or online have no evidence to suggest they can accurately and reliably show an indication of allergy. At the time of writing there is no complementary or alternative diagnostic procedure that can be recommended. Tests such as electrodermal testing, kinesiology, hair analysis and iridology have no proven benefit and may delay you accessing appropriate treatment.
Allergy blood tests
In this article, we’re going to explain how at-home allergy tests that detect IgE work as these are the tests that are supported by science.
A home allergy blood test shows your sensitization to specific substances by detecting IgE in your blood. This can give you an indication of an allergy to the tested triggers. To understand how this works and what this means for the interpretation of test results, we’ll explain what IgE and sensitization are.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody produced by the immune system and an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to allergy.
IgE antibodies are part of the body’s defense against foreign substances such as parasites.
Sensitized or allergic?
What's the difference?
But IgE also plays a vital role in an allergic reaction to for example pollen, house dust mites, insect stings and some foods.
An allergic reaction happens when your body treats a harmless substance as a threat and your immune system produces an unnecessary response to the trigger. The body produces IgE antibodies specific to the trigger it’s trying to fight. These antibodies tell other cells to release certain chemicals. And it is those chemicals that cause the annoying and sometimes even life-threatening allergy symptoms.
The process of your body becoming sensitive to an allergen is called sensitization.
Allergic reactions don’t happen the first time you come into contact with an allergen.
Before an allergic reaction can be triggered, your body needs to prep its defense mechanisms for the substance by producing IgE. When you have specific IgE antibodies against a trigger in your blood, you are sensitized to that allergen.
Sensitization is the first step in developing an allergy. But being sensitized does not mean that you are necessarily allergic.
If you’re allergic, your next encounter with the allergen might trigger an allergic reaction. But you can be sensitized and encounter the specific substance repeatedly and never experience allergy symptoms. We don’t know yet, why an allergic reaction is triggered in some sensitized people and not in others. But as long as there are no symptoms you are not allergic.
So, sensitization does not always lead to symptoms, but symptoms do not develop without sensitization.
The results of a home allergy tests can be a first step to finding out if you have an allergy.
By identifying IgE antibodies, a home allergy blood test can show if you’re sensitized to certain allergens.
Allergy tests in general can only tell us about sensitization. However, as we’ve just seen, being sensitized to something does not automatically mean being allergic.
You should view the results of an at-home allergy blood test as an indication of a suspected allergy rather than clear-cut proof. The results of a home tests for allergy can be a first step to finding out if you have an allergy.
It’s essential to consult with your health care provider after taking any allergy test. Remember, your medical history and your symptoms have to be considered in combination with the allergy test results to tell if you have allergy or not.
There are different types of a home allergy tests detecting IgE: we distinguish between home-to-lab tests and self-test kits.
With home-to-lab allergy blood tests, you can usually test your sensitization to a great variety of allergens, giving you a comprehensive view of potential allergies. You need to collect a small blood sample from your fingertip and send it to the lab for analysis. Typically, everything you need is included in the box. After the lab has analyzed your sample you will be provided with an overview of the allergens you are sensitized to. You can usually access the test results online.
Having multiple allergies?
With an allergy self-test kit, you perform the simple test yourself, using a small sample of your blood. Since it’s a test done at home, the number of allergens tested can be fewer than in a home-to-lab test. An allergy self-test kit requires you to take a small blood sample from your fingertip. Again, usually everything you need is in the test kit. An allergy self-test is a quick and simple process. If the test has been performed according to the instructions, you will be able to see the results shortly after.
Overall, the accuracy of blood tests for allergy is high. Blood tests are evolving all the time and getting more precise. Some blood tests are now able to give results for individual proteins in a single allergen.
The test results of an at-home allergy test can only give you an indication of your body’s reaction to specific allergens. The results need to be interpreted by a health care provider.
Like all allergy blood tests, there is a possibility that a home allergy test will provide false positive results (meaning the test detects a response to an allergen even though there is none) or false negative results (meaning the test does not pick up on a reaction to an allergen). Do not take any decisions or actions to change your medication or diet based on the results of a home allergy test without consulting your health care provider first. Only a health care provider can give you a diagnosis of allergy.
Knowing what you are allergic to means you’re better equipped to manage your allergy symptoms. You’ll be able to discuss your treatment options with your health care provider and make decisions that are right for you and your lifestyle.