Allergy Skin Test: How to Prepare Your Child

How to Prepare Your Child for an allergy skin test

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.


Dr. Nguyen conducts allergy skin testing in children.

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.



  1. Latha - Columbus Allergists on July 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you for the advice to prepare my child for an allergy test!

  2. Joseph's Mommy on October 18, 2016 at 7:12 am

    As an adult and having this test done myself, it is painful. From experience, I have had a tattoo that lasted 12 hrs. yes 12 hrs. the pain associated with this testing of 50 allergens, and what that pain endured if I as an adult did not walk myself through saying to myself children do this have this, it is painful. It is NOT easy it is hard for me to not leave this comment, when after facing this… all I have to say is.. if you have not had the testing yourself, you should do one then come back to saying it is simple. It is not. It is a courageous test, and the manner of needles, if I did not have such experience and having a high pain endurance I could not truthfully say this. IT IS NOT A SIMPLE test..

    • Jennifer Roberge on October 28, 2016 at 10:49 am

      Hi there – I think it really depends on the test. My son and i had a skin prick test and didn’t find it painful at all. BUT the reactions were difficult and very itchy. For us that was the only hard part. I do know there are many variations of the test – some are tiny skin pricks and some are more invasive. So, perhaps if you’re interested in having this done for a child, check which type of test the doctor will perform first. So there are no surprises. And blood draws are another matter – they can be more painful for sure.

      • Joseph's Mommy on October 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm

        I had it done myself. It was painful but I had over 50 . Blessings.

    • Kat on June 29, 2022 at 7:28 am

      Wow I have tattoos and done the test. I didn’t even feel anything for the test so idk what ur talking about lady. I’ve also seen my cousin as a small infant do they test and was also fine.

  3. Kyle Winters on June 1, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I do like that you recommend telling children about the procedure ahead of time. After all, it can be a disaster if you take the children to get tested by surprise and then they’re suddenly confronted by a needle. Ideally, you’d want to explain the procedure to your child, why it is important, and ask what you can do to make the procedure more comfortable like holding their hand through it or something like that.

  4. Derek Dewitt on May 7, 2018 at 8:16 am

    I am going to get my son tested for peanut allergies soon, but I wasn’t sure what to expect, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about explaining the process ahead of time to your kid. I’ll be sure to tell him in a way that he won’t be scared when we go.

  5. Ellen Hughes on April 10, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    It was nice to know that allergy tests of today are easier compared to those in the past. As you said, children can feel no pain at all. It was such a relief to know this piece of information. My son always suffers from skin rashes and headaches. We have a hunch that he has an allergy to certain foods since he only gets rashes when we eat in restaurants. I will surely share this with him to make sure that he won’t fear the process of allergy tests.

  6. Ellen Hughes on April 16, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    It sure got me when you said that that the allergy tests of today are more comfortable and can make children feel no pain at all. This is something that I will share with my son so he can reduce his anxieties about skin allergy tests. We have a hunch that he is suffering from an allergy because his skin always gets rashes and irritations when he’s eating certain dishes. We are planning to bring him to an allergist clinic to be tested.

  7. Ciara Shenectady on May 2, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    It got me when you said that you can expect a doctor to ask you to stop giving your child antihistamines before an allergy skin test. This is something that I will share with my sister because she wants her son to undergo allergy testing soon. She said that her son always suffers from skin rashes and watery eyes whenever he eats chicken and egg. Thanks!

  8. Taylor Wright on October 30, 2019 at 11:04 am

    I appreciate that you recommended explaining to your child that the symptoms may be gone when they are done with the treatment. My sister has concerns that her young child is allergic to a variety of things. I will gladly pass along this information to help her figure out when to take her child into for testing.

  9. Taylor Hansen on August 3, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    It’s interesting that the pinpricks of the testing are similar to a mosquito bite. I’m wanting to take my son to get tested for allergies since he is always sniffling when spring comes around. I’ll have to take him to the allergist and tell him that it doesn’t hurt when his back is pricked.

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