How do they test for allergies in infants?

If you think your child has an allergy, you should see your pediatrician as soon as possible. There are several types of tests that can be performed on infants to determine specific triggers. By isolating the particular trigger, it may then be easier to treat the reaction or prevent it entirely by avoiding the trigger itself.

Children of all ages are susceptible to allergies. As young as four months of age, infants may show symptoms of reaction to airborne or contact triggers, specific foods or certain medications. Food allergies are among the most common forms of allergy in infants and young children and reactions to these substances can be quite severe.

In most cases, allergy testing in infants is the same as for older children and adults. Depending on the type of allergy suspected, your doctor may use a skin test, blood test or other testing methods to determine the trigger. When performed by trained personnel, testing is completely safe and is the first step to effective treatment.

Contact or airborne triggers can be isolated using a skin test, patch test or blood test. In skin prick and patch tests, a small amount of the suspected trigger is applied directly to the skin, and then the physician waits to see if a reaction occurs.

The prick tests produce a quick reaction, in about 15 minutes. Patch tests take about 48 hours to produce results. In both cases, individual triggers can be isolated and identified.

Blood tests, also known as Radio Allergo Sorbent Test (or RAST), are used to measure the level of immunoglobulin E in the body. People who have an allergic reaction will have higher levels of IgE in their body. This type of test can isolate up to 400 different individual triggers and can be used for respiratory, food, seafood and nut allergies.

Other testing methods for infants include the challenge test and the food challenge test. In both cases, the patient is directly exposed to the suspected trigger and then closely monitored for reactions. Because these reactions can sometimes be severe, this type of testing can only be performed under very structured conditions, with medical personnel present at all times.

All of these tests can be positive, even in very young children. So it's never too early to test your child if you suspect a problem. Since food allergies are the most common allergies in children and can cause the most severe and even life-threatening reactions, it is crucial to determine the existence of this type of problem as soon as possible.

If you're concerned about your child's health and whether allergies exist, talk to your pediatrician today about what form of testing would be best. Together, you can determine exactly what's affecting your child and work to prevent or even completely eliminate serious reactions, so your child can grow up happy and healthy.

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