If you're experiencing symptoms that indicate you have an allergy (like wheezing, breaking out in hives, watering eyes, and sneezing), it's important to find out what you're allergic to as soon as possible. The sooner you discover your allergens, the quicker you can craft a treatment plan to successfully manage your symptoms. A patch test is an effective means to quickly figure out what you're allergic to.
During a patch test, your doctor will apply a small amount of the allergen to a patch and then place the patch on your skin (using a different site for each substance). The patches will remain in place for a couple days, and then you'll go back to your doctor so they can look for signs of irritation, like welts, redness, or itchiness. Here are a few questions to ask your doctor before you have your patch test.
1. Are there any medications that you need to stop taking before your test?
There are a few medications that can impact the results of your patch test. For example, if you take a daily allergy medication, this can suppress your body's allergic reaction during the patch test.
Your doctor will likely have you stop taking prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications in advance of your test. It does take time for your allergy medication to completely leave your body, so make sure you know when exactly you should cease your medications.
Some medications, like antidepressants and heartburn medication, can increase your chances of suffering a severe reaction from the patch test. Your doctor will weigh the benefits versus the risks of having you stop these types of medication before your test.
2. How many allergens will you test for?
One benefit of a patch test is that it allows your doctor to test for numerous allergens at once. Ask your doctor how many allergens they can test you for and which ones will be included in the test. You want to make sure that any substances you believe you're reacting to are included.
3. Are there any activities you need to avoid while the patches are in place?
The exact recommendations for your patch test will vary based on your specific test. However, typical recommendations state that you need to keep the patched areas of your body dry and clean during your test. Ask your doctor which activities are forbidden.
Generally, vigorous exercise with heavy sweating and wet activities like swimming aren't advisable. However, you may be able to do light exercise or water sports where you're unlikely to be submerged in water (like kayaking).
Contact a clinic, like Allergy Asthma Specialists, for more help.