Allergy testing identifies allergens, like mold, pet dander, bee stings and peanuts, that can cause allergies. During a skin prick test, a healthcare provider introduces allergens into your skin to check for a wheal (raised mark), rash or other reactions. Blood tests can check for IgE antibodies. The results can help you take steps to manage allergies.
People can be allergic to things in the environment like mold, pollen and pet dander. Some people have allergic reactions to bee stings or latex. People with food allergies may not be able to tolerate peanuts, milk or soy.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Your healthcare provider may perform an allergy test if you have allergy symptoms that bother you. Providers also perform allergy tests on people who have asthma. The test can identify allergy triggers that can worsen asthma symptoms or bring on an asthma attack.
You may also need a test if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This potentially life-threatening problem can cause hives or swelling, breathing difficulty and/or a sharp drop in blood pressure that brings on anaphylactic shock. Your health history along with allergy testing is used to determine the cause of severe reaction. If you have had an anaphylactic reaction or may be at risk for one, then you may need to carry an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector (EpiPen®) to treat the symptoms.
If you’re allergic to allergens in the air like dust, pollen or pet dander, you may develop allergic rhinitis. Also known as hay fever, this allergic reaction causes:
Food allergy symptoms typically occur within 30 minutes of food ingestion but may occur up to two hours after ingestion. People with food allergies may experience:
A patch test, performed by a dermatologist, is used to diagnose these types of reactions.
Allergy tests measure your body’s response to specific allergy triggers or allergens. If you have an allergy, your immune system overreacts. It produces antibodies (proteins) called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies trigger the release of chemicals that cause an allergic reaction.
There are different ways to test for allergies. Your healthcare provider will select the best method based on your symptoms and the suspected allergens.
These tests include:
Your healthcare provider will ask you to stop taking allergy medications like antihistamines three to seven days before an allergy test. These medicines can interfere with test results by stopping your immune system’s response to allergens. You should continue to take asthma medication.
The purpose of skin tests is to see how your body responds to allergens. If you have an allergic reaction, you’ll develop a reaction at the site of the test. Rarely patients may have mild allergy symptoms such as itchy skin, watery eyes and congestion. Most symptoms clear up in one to two hours after the test, the redness or wheals may remain for several more hours.
The potential for an anaphylactic reaction is the biggest risk. This type of reaction is rare. Providers are always prepared with epinephrine. They offer emergency care if you have a severe reaction during an allergy test.
Over-the-counter allergy test kits that you buy at your local drugstore or online aren’t very reliable. Some of them don’t test for the right antibodies. You’re also more likely to get a false-positive result, which may lead you to avoid certain substances or foods unnecessarily.
Health insurers may not fully cover the cost of allergy tests at a healthcare provider’s office. The costs can range from $200 to $1,000. You can ask your insurer about your plan’s policies. In general, it’s best to get allergy tests with a medical expert. They can read the results and discuss treatment options with you.
You’ll get the results of most allergy tests immediately after testing while at your provider’s office. A patch test can take several days. Results from blood tests sent to a lab may take a week or longer.
Allergy test results may be:
Depending on the allergy, your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of these steps:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Allergic reactions can range from annoying congestion to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Allergy tests can identify substances that cause these types of allergic reactions. There are different allergy tests. Your healthcare provider will choose the best test for you based on symptoms and potential allergy triggers. If you have allergies, you can take steps to get symptom relief.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/02/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.