Allergy testing along with medical history can confirm if signs and symptoms, such as sneezing, wheezing, and rash, are caused by allergies. Allergy testing can also identify certain substances that trigger allergic reactions. Allergy testing results may help the allergist determine an allergy treatment plan, which may include allergen avoidance, medication, or immunotherapy.
How much does allergy testing cost?
If you don’t have health insurance, you should be prepared to pay anywhere between $160 and $330 just for a consultation with an allergist. Depending on which route you choose, you have to plan on spending another $220 to $1,100 ($12 to $25 per allergen) for a blood test known as a RAST test, or $70 to $350 ($5 to $8 per allergen) for the commonly used skin prick test.
In general, allergy testing costs are covered by health insurance.
In case you have health insurance, you will have to budget just for the copay for the doctor’s visit. For instance, the Aetna plan has a copay for allergy testing of $40, while the Blue Choice plan has a copay
Types of allergy tests
Skin allergology tests
There are two types of skin allergy tests, the prick test, and the intradermal test.
The doctor pushes a needle through the surface of the skin with a very small amount of allergen; the test is performed on the inside of the arms, with several allergens at the same time. If you are allergic, redness and edema appear in the area where you were stung.
The allergen is injected with a very fine needle under the first few layers of the skin. This skin test can be used when the result of the prick test is not clear and conclusive.
There are other types of tests, one of which is the patch test, which does not use needles, but a patch. Allergen is applied to a special patch, which is then glued to the patient’s skin. The patch test is usually used to identify those substances that cause contact dermatitis (latex, medicines, hair dye, metals, perfume, resins, etc.).
Your doctor may also recommend blood tests to diagnose allergies. Skin tests are more sensitive than blood tests, but your allergist may decide to use blood tests to diagnose allergies in the following situations:
- If the patient is taking a medicine that may interfere with the results of allergy testing;
- If the patient has very sensitive skin or has a serious dermatological condition;
- If the patient has had a previous reaction to an allergen, which suggested that he is very sensitive to the substance and should avoid prolonged exposure to it.
After collecting the blood sample, it is sent to the laboratory, where it will be analyzed and where antibodies will be searched for specific allergens, which shows if the patient has allergies.
If the patient is suspected of having a food allergy, he will be advised by his doctor to avoid certain foods, to see if his symptoms are relieved in the next period. After a few weeks, the patient will be asked to start eating that food again, so that the doctor can check if he has any other reaction. Careful! Do not try to eliminate the food from the diet on your own without discussing this decision with an allergist or other specialist.
How do I know which type of test suits me?
Before performing any type of test, an allergology consultation will be performed, which involves a discussion with the allergist and a physical examination. The doctor will decide based on the signs and symptoms of the patient and his medical history which type of test is most appropriate.
When do you need an allergy test?
Allergies are triggered by the exaggerated reaction of the immune system of some people to certain substances in the environment.
These substances are harmless, but they are considered harmful to some people. Therefore, try to defend yourself against those substances releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause various allergic reactions. The more sensitive the immune system is to a substance that triggers an allergic reaction, the more severe the symptoms.
Tests can be performed to identify common allergens, such as plant or tree pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dandruff, insect bites, and various foods (peanuts, eggs, wheat, shellfish, and milk). The test is also valid for some medicines, such as penicillin.
What are the extra costs?
Your doctor may recommend you take allergy shots, also named immunotherapy if there are any allergies revealed after testing. If you don’t have insurance, you will have to spend around $4,200 for this therapy in the first year. The costs will decrease in the following years as you will need fewer shots. In general, treatment lasts three to five years.
Important things to consider
The allergy testing must be done by a board-certified allergist because the results of the testing may be influenced by the skill level of the practitioner. If you need to find a board-certified allergist, you can use the website page of The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology or simply give them a call and ask for a referral.
The allergy treatment may include medications, immunotherapy, environmental changes, or dietary changes. The results of a test that identifies allergens will lead to the establishment of a treatment plan that will help you reduce or eliminate the signs and symptoms of the allergy.
How can I save money?
If you are not going to use health insurance and pay the full sum with a credit card or cash, you may get a discount of up to 35% at some doctors.