All About Allergy Skin Testing

Since I am running some of my most popular blog posts to celebrate my blog’s 4th anniversary this year, here is my article that ran four years ago about skin allergy testing.  I thought this was timely to run again since so many of us are knee deep (or perhaps I should say nose deep) in our active allergy season right now.

Spring brings outdoor play and unwanted allergies as well.

Spring brings outdoor play and unwanted allergies as well.

Hang in there and read on about what to expect if you decide to go in for allergy testing plus I include three local links to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist that I recommend, a naturopathic physician I saw to understand and treat my allergy to yeast (that is now under control, I’m happy to report) and an allergist that my teenage daughter really liked when she was tested.  I have updated a few sections, but this is pretty much how it ran four years ago….

       Manic:  Wondering why I was tasting salt, but ignoring it because I was too busy.

Managed:  Finally seeing an ENT who offered me allergy testing.  Life has been interesting since that initial first appointment.  I’m guessing that many of you wonder just what is involved when it comes to allergy skin testing.  Read on to hear my first-hand details.

I went to see a highly recommended local ENT (ears, nose and throat doctor).  Dr. Jeffrey McKenna, MD was very good and very thorough.  (See my previous post about Dr. McKenna at

Dr. McKenna determined that my salty taste buds were the result of a chronic sinus infection caused by my annoying allergies.

It seems like everyone I know suffers from allergies these days.  So when he told me that he had a top-notch ENT nurse practitioner who specializes in allergy and immunology treatment, I signed up to get skin testing.

Although the testing sounds unpleasant since it is called prick testing, it wasn’t too bad.  It is done in two parts, and the first session takes about 30 minutes.  I was not allowed to have any type of antihistamines for 72 hours prior to the first appointment.  Taking allergy meds beforehand can interfere with the true results.

Once at the appointment, a plastic device holding eight different antigens at one time was used to prick the inside of my forearm.  To get 48 allergen results, six of the plastic device objects were used right in a row.  It was a little uncomfortable, but not as bad as I had imagined it would be.  I was relieved that it was not a big deal.

Soon after the pricks were done, the bumps left behind became a bit red and swollen indicating an allergic response.   Scratching the itchy areas is not permitted until the 30-minute testing is complete.  Lucky for me, I wasn’t too itchy, but if you take a look at this picture taken about 45 minutes after testing, you can definitely see the red swollen bumps.

45 minutes after skin allergy testing.

I was told that several additional red swollen bumps might appear several days later showing a delayed allergic reaction to some of the of the antigens that I was tested for.

That did happen.  Here is what my arm looked like two days later showing a delayed allergic reaction.

Delayed allergic reaction that appeared several days after testing.

So what caused the allergic reactions?  Animal dander from dogs and cats, dust mites, some trees like the Arizona Sycamore and some grass types.

My most severe reaction was caused by Baker’s yeast, which was interesting, because naturopathic physician, Dr. Theresa Ramsey, NMD told me several years ago that I am allergic to foods that contain yeast.  When I mentioned this during testing, a blood test was also done to determine my food allergies.  Only one food came back positive and that is yeast.

Having a yeast allergy is frustrating because the substance is not just in bread.  It is also found in mushrooms, foods that contain sugar, like my beloved ketchup, beer, aged cheeses and many other foods.  Because yeast is also in the air we breathe, it was an antigen that was included in my skin testing and it showed a big reaction.  So, changing my diet even more is also a crucial part of my allergy treatment.

To further confirm the skin testing results, I had to return one week later to endure part 2 of the testing.

I say endure because the second part of the allergy tests require even more pokes in my skin, but this time they were done on the outside of my shoulder.

This time tiny amounts of allergens are poked into my skin to confirm the first batch of reactions and to pick up things that may have been missed during the first skin test.  This is also done to calculate how strong or weak each allergy is for my body.  This is helpful in prescribing the right type and a safe prescription for an allergy shot or allergy drops.

It was a bit more uncomfortable the second time around, but I got through it fine.  Now that all the results were in, it would be time for me to decide if I wanted allergy shots or allergy drops.

With both treatments, a tiny amount of the substances that I’m allergic to are given to me either by an injection (allergy shot) or daily drops that I would take under my tongue (allergy drops).

The treatment exposes the particular allergens to my body that cause my allergy symptoms.  Doing this is supposed to slowly desensitize me from my allergies, thereby ending or greatly minimizing the allergic reaction.  This made sense to me so I decided to give the allergy treatment a try.  But which route would I take?  The shot or the drops?

Allergy shots are covered by insurance.  Allergy drops are not and would set me back $200 for 3 months of treatment.  So, I had to choose between a shot or tasteless drops.  I chose the drops and they were working for me, but they were getting too expensive.  So after a few months, I started to take a daily Claritin during allergy season and I improved my diet and cut out yeasty and sugary foods and that has been working pretty well.

I am glad that I was tested because I was able to make some changes since I now know what things were making me sneeze, have watery eyes and itch.  For example when we recently put in a new backyard, I knew which trees to avoid planting since the allergy testing gave me the trees and plants that I react to and knowledge is power.

I also took my daughter in for skin allergy last year and we went to a different allergist, who did a great job and made the testing comfortable for her.  That practice is called AZ Allergy & Asthma Specialists and we liked Dr. Millhollon.  Again having the knowledge that she is allergic to a lot of dog breeds and certain foods lets us know to always pack her Epipen for her strong cashew nut allergy and an allegy med for sleepovers.

My girl's back and although this looks very uncomfortable with the swelled bumps showing the different allergies, she did fine.  The doctor told us that "she is basically allergic to Arizona" (bless her heart), but having the knowledge to know how to treat her has made a big difference and she is doing very well and getting through this allergy season.

My girl’s back and although this looks very uncomfortable with the swelled bumps showing the different allergies, she did fine. The doctor told us that “she is basically allergic to Arizona” (bless her heart), but having the knowledge to know how to treat her has made a big difference and she is doing very well and getting through this allergy season.

With allergies, knowledge is power and ignorance is not bliss when you are plagued with the sneezing and itching that this rough allergy season can cause, so I hope that this article was helpful to you.

Share your allergy testing or treatment stories here in the comments section.  With the arrival of spring blooming, tis’ the season for allergies, unfortunately!

All About Allergy Drops

Manic:  Sneezing my way through the day because I didn’t take the time to deal with my seasonal allergies.

Managed:  Finally got tested and started on allergy drops.  For my testing and treatment, I went to Valley ENT (

If you read my post from a few days ago called All About Allergy Skin Testing (, then you know that I endured the skin testing.  I ended the article by promising that I would write more later to tell you what course of treatment I chose. 

I chose allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy (   An interesting, but expensive choice.  And what do I think so far?  Keep reading and I’ll give you the allergy drop scoop.

The picture shows a handy little case that my new allergy drops arrived in.  A record-keeping sheet was also included.  The case is small enough to fit neatly in my purse.  I like that.  So what exactly are allergy drops?

Allergy drops are specific to each person.  After my two rounds of skin testing, it was determined that I am allergic to several trees like the Marsh Elder and Mulberry tree, as well as other substances like dust mites.  So a special combination of traces of things that I’m allergic to were carefully combined to create specific allergy drops just for my body. 

These drops are a physician-prescribed antigen that, over time, can build my body’s tolerance to specific allergies.  Gradually, my body should become desensitized to the offending allergens, which will hopefully, result in fewer symptoms and medication needs.  This makes sense to me, so I decided to try the drops.

I take one drop under my tongue three times a day.  The drops are tasteless and simple to administer.  Once I take a drop, I check off one box on my record-keeping chart.  I do this for three months and then return to the doctor to discuss changes and/or improvements with my allergy symptoms. 

So far, so good.  I have currently been taking the drops for three weeks with very little side effects.

At times, my eyes will itch right after I take a drop and I might sneeze once or twice.  And usually this time of year, I’m sneezing throughout the day.  So, three weeks into this, it seems to be working.  Now let me discuss the downside…and that would be the cost.

Allergy drops are not covered by insurance, while allergy shots usually are.  I paid $200 for three months worth of drops.  The goal is that the drops will eventually cure my body of allergies all together, so I will no longer need the drops.  So this means that the $200 I’ve spent so far is an investment that shouldn’t be a permanent expense. 

However, allergy drops can take 3 to 5 years to complete, so cost is an issue to consider.

Before I signed up to put allergy drops in my body, I did a little research and discovered that this course of treatment has been used around the world for more than 60 years.  Numerous studies show the drops to be safe and effective for both children and adults.  Allergy drops are endorsed by the World Health Organization as a viable alternative to injection therapy.  Too bad most insurance companies do not cover the drops.

So what is the difference between the drops and the shots?  The allergens used for allergy drops are the same that are used for the injections.  Both are used to slowly desensitize the body to the offending allergy.  An allergy injection is a shot, while the drops are taken under the tongue. 

So what happens next for me and my allergy drops?  After I complete the first three months of treatment, I will return to the doctor to check on my progress and I may have to endure more skin testing.  Phase 1 of the drops, which is the first three months, is the time that my body adjusts to the treatments and my symptoms may improve.  So far this has been true, making the sting of the cost a little more bearable!

Phase 2 of the treatment (3 months to 2 years) is called the Initial phase.  As my symptoms decrease, my body should take steps to change my allergy tolerance. 

Phase 3 (2 to 5 years) is known as the Symptom Reduction and long-term desensitization stage.  The hope here is that my body will now stay symptom-free all on its own. 

I’ll keep you posted. 

Do you have experience with allergy drops?  Share here in the comments section.  And for all of you allergy sufferers out there, hang in there as we venture into the blooming and allergy-producing Spring season.