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By Houston Allergy & Sinus (bio below)
Mild allergies don’t always get as much attention as other, more serious childhood conditions like asthma or anaphylaxis, but they can still make your child’s – and your – life miserable, and they can exacerbate other conditions. So when your child’s pediatrician says: “I think your child has allergies,” you may be wondering – and dreading – what’s next, especially if your child is afraid of needles.
Fortunately, allergy tests for kids are incredibly common, and since many children have to go through them; the testing has been refined so that it’s as painless as possible. These purpose of allergy testing in children is simple: To identify the substances your child is allergic to. Once you know what the substances are, you can avoid them if at all possible or pursue other treatments if not.
What you need to know about allergy testing in children
Allergy Tests for Kids Are Simple
If you’re dreading your child’s upcoming allergy tests because you remember your own from the past, take heart. Significant developments make today’s allergy tests much easier and more comfortable than those in years past. Today, simple painless “pinprick” allergy skin tests are usually used to identify allergenic substances, and children usually feel no pain at all. Most of the time, allergy blood tests are not even necessary.
Types of Allergy Skin Testing
Allergy skin testing is generally comprised of two different types of tests. The first, the percutaneous test, is conducted by placing a small, diluted version of the allergenic substance just under the skin through a prick or scratch. The second is the intradermal skin test, whereby a needle actually injects the allergen in question. Your child will receive a series of these, often done a grid-like pattern on the back, all at once.
Preparing Your Child For An Allergy Skin Test
Stop giving antihistamines to your child
A week before the test, your pediatrician or allergist will instruct you to stop giving your child antihistamines to treat allergy symptoms. Your doctor can advise you on alternate treatments for allergy symptoms during that week.
What if your child hates needles?
If your child hates needles (and what child doesn’t?), the test itself will probably cause some anxiety. In reality, these “pinpricks” are done very quickly with very little discomfort – about the same as the sting of a mosquito bite. Anticipation and anxiety are worse than the pinpricks, in other words. However, if your child is particularly anxious, he or she may not believe that “this doesn’t hurt” means just that, so be prepared to soothe your child and calm his or her anxieties at the allergist’s office before and while the test is taking place.
Should you tell your child ahead of time what the test entails?
Probably, at least enough to soothe his or her fears. If your child is the type who hears “needle” and then hides under the bed for the rest of the month, you’ll need to choose your words carefully.
How to discuss allergy skin testing with your child
Explain that a doctor will need to do some tests to figure out what your child’s allergies are so that they can be treated appropriately. Explain that with treatment, your child’s symptoms will be greatly minimized or may even disappear altogether, so that he or she can stop being sick all the time. If your child is particularly anxious, you can reassure him or her that only a small amount of the substance he or she is allergic to will be used in the test, and that nothing bad will happen because of it.
Explain through demonstration
If your child is particularly fearful of needles, you can show him or her how the percutaneous test is done by pressing a clean toothpick gently on your child’s skin. You can also reassure him or her that the test does not cause bleeding, and that he or she may not even feel it. Once you go to the allergist, the doctor may also let your child see and touch a similar instrument before the test to allay any fears. Explain that if your child does have a reaction to an allergenic substance, it won’t hurt. It will just itch like a mosquito bite – unpleasant, to be sure, but not painful. And because your child is likely familiar with what a mosquito bite feels like, this familiar reference will be comforting to him or her.
Allergy Skin Testing Results
Depending on the allergenic substances, reactions to the skin tests may take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days. If the substances will react within a few minutes, you can simply take games or books, etc., to the allergist’s office to occupy your child while you wait for the allergy skin testing results. If your doctor must send you home after the test to wait for reactions to occur, you will probably be warned not to give your child antihistamines for several days, until the evaluation has taken place. That’s because antihistamines may suppress allergenic reactions that the allergist will need to see for proper diagnosis and treatment.
When to Retest for Allergies
Finally, allergy testing usually isn’t done “just once.” Instead, it’s likely that your child will need to be seen and re-evaluated with new testing every three years or so. The good news is, many children outgrow allergies as they get older. Ultimately, most children can leave allergy testing entirely behind once they move into puberty and adulthood.
This article was submitted by Houston Sinus & Allergy. They are lead by Dr. CT Nguyen, a Houston ENT that specializes in treating nasal and sinus conditions and providing allergy care. They are committed to helping patients find long term relief from their symptoms. Join them on Facebook.