Skin allergies are common and may present in various forms. These include itchy swollen patches (urticaria or hives), scaly red eczema-like patches, weepy infected-looking patches with blisters, etc. Many different agents can give rise to allergic reactions. Common agents include medications or drugs, chemicals, dyes, airborne agents and foods. Depending on the allergic reaction pattern as well as the suspected agent causing the allergy, special tests can be done to determine if the agent(s) suspected is truly the cause of the allergy. Some of these tests include:
- Prick tests – this is where minute amounts of the suspected agents are pricked on the skin to determine if a reaction is present. The results are usually ready within 30 mins. Agents that can be tested using this method include certain airborne agents, foods and certain medication. (See Prick Test for more details)
- Patch tests – this is where the suspected agents are plastered onto the back. It should be left on for 48 hours. A return trip to the clinic is required to determine the reaction. Agents that can be tested with this method include dyes, metals and certain medications. (See Patch test for more details)
- Blood tests – this method is good when many agents are suspected to have possibly caused the allergy. Processing time varies from days to weeks. Agents tested using this method include food, airborne agents and certain medications. (See Laboratory test for more details)
Treatment of allergies always entails avoiding the offending agent causing the allergy, once identified. The skin reaction that has already occured has to be treated as well. Treatment would include topical creams, oral medications and/or injections, depending on the severity and type of the reaction. Often times, a course of medication is required to calm down the allergic reaction that has already occurred. In very severe forms, hospitalization may be necessary for more intensive therapy.