Home allergy tests
The number of people in the UK affected by allergy is on the rise. The increase in allergies has caused some people to become dismissive. But living with allergy can have quite an impact on the life of the person affected and in severe cases, can have serious consequences.
Allergy is common but it’s 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 testing. 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 home allergy blood test kits testing for IgE antibodies.
Why do a home allergy test?
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 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.
An 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 doctor. 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 doctor to discuss your symptoms. Only a doctor can give you a diagnosis of allergy and access to the whole range of allergy management options.
Choose your home allergy test wisely
There are lots of different home tests for allergy available. But if you want to get an idea of what might be causing your symptoms choose a test that detects Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Home allergy tests detecting IgE antibodies in your blood can help to identify a potential allergy. It’s the same technology as the blood allergy test performed by doctors.
Watch out for test kits that are based on detecting Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. It’s such a similar name to IgE but IgG antibodies cannot be used to get an indication of potential allergy triggers.
Many tests you can buy on the high street 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.
How does a home allergy test detecting IgE work?
In this article, we’re going to explain how home allergy tests that detect IgE work as these are the tests that are supported by science.
Home allergy blood tests show your sensitisation 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 sensitisation are.
What is IgE?
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 defence against foreign substances such as parasites. 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.
What is sensitisation?
The process of your body becoming sensitive to an allergen is called sensitisation.
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 defence mechanisms for the substance by producing IgE. When you have specific IgE antibodies against a trigger in your blood, you are sensitised to that allergen.
Sensitisation vs allergy
Sensitisation is the first step of developing allergy. But being sensitised 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 sensitised and encounter the specific substance repeatedly and never experience allergy symptoms. We don’t know yet, why an allergic reaction is triggered in some sensitised people and not in others. But as long as there are no symptoms you are not allergic.
So, sensitisation does not always lead to symptoms, but symptoms do not develop without sensitisation.
Read more about sensitisation.
What do the home allergy test results mean?
By identifying IgE antibodies, a home allergy blood test can show if you’re sensitised to certain allergens.
Allergy tests in general can only tell us about sensitisation. However, as we’ve just seen, being sensitised to something does not automatically mean being allergic.
You should view the results of a 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 doctor 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.
Options when choosing a home allergy test which detects IgE
A home-to-lab allergy blood test can test your sensitisation to hundreds of allergens, giving you a comprehensive view of potential allergies by detecting IgE in your blood.
A home allergy blood test kit testing for IgE can show if you're sensitised to a few of the major allergens. Allergens such as house dust mites, grass pollen or cat dander.
How to do a home-to-lab allergy blood test
With home-to-lab allergy blood tests, you have to send your blood sample to the lab for analysis. Everything you need to collect a small blood sample from your fingertip and instructions on how to do it is included in the box. After your sample has been analysed you can usually access your test results online. The results will give an overview of the allergens you are sensitised to.
How to use a home allergy blood test kit
A home allergy test kit requires you to take a small blood sample from your fingertip. You perform the simple test for a few major allergens yourself, using your blood sample. Everything you need to do the test is in the kit. A home allergy blood 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.
How accurate are home allergy tests?
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 components of a single allergen.
What to do after your home allergy test
The test results of a 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 doctor.
Like all allergy 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 doctor first. Only a doctor 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 doctor and make decisions that are right for you and your lifestyle.
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