If your infant or toddler has long struggled with symptoms like irritability, reflux, skin rashes, trouble breathing, or stomach upset, you may wonder whether something in their environment is causing these issues. Allergies can arise at any age, unfortunately, and although infants enjoy some immune protection through their mother, this often isn't enough to combat allergies. When should you have your infant or toddler tested for allergies, and what should you expect from the process?
How Young Is Too Young?
Allergy testing can be unpleasant and sometimes invasive, so allergists generally don't advise major allergy testing for infants unless they're experiencing severe symptoms. But if allergy testing is warranted, it can be performed on any infant older than six months. Furthermore, there is evidence supporting the theory that the earlier you intervene and treat allergies, the less severe they'll become later in life.
What Should You Expect?
Before you attend your child's allergy testing appointment, it's a good idea to keep a log of their food, drink, and daily activities, along with any symptoms you notice. This can help narrow down potential allergens and find patterns that may help pinpoint a specific allergy.
There are essentially two types of skin allergy tests available for infants and toddlers: the skin prick test and the intradermal test. Both these tests involve the use of a needle to put a small amount of a potential allergen under the skin. In the skin prick test, the droplet of allergen is placed on the skin and is then pricked with a needle. This shifts a minuscule amount of the allergen under the skin, where it can cause a mild reaction without putting your child in any danger.
The intradermal test is often used to check for allergies to insect bites or penicillin. A small amount of the allergen is injected under the skin. After 10 to 15 minutes, the allergist will check the site for any reaction, which can indicate an allergy.
Other allergies might not be able to be detected through skin tests. For example, an allergy to wheat can often be detected only through an elimination diet that slowly adds back gluten to check for any reaction. A blood test can rule out other potential allergies that can't be tested through a skin prick or intradermal test. But because skin tests can identify the vast majority of potential allergens, they're often the first stop in an allergy testing regimen.
Contact a medical facility that offers allergy testing services to learn more.