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What is a skin patch test & How do I do it?

Allergy testing involves having a skin or blood test to determine what substance, or allergen, may trigger an allergic response in a person. Skin tests are usually done because they are rapid, reliable, and generally less expensive than blood tests, but either type of test may be used.

Skin patch test. For a skin patch test, the allergen solution is placed on a pad that is taped to the skin for 24 to 72 hours. This test is used to detect a skin allergy called contact dermatitis.

A skin patch test also uses small doses of the suspected allergen. For this test:

  • Doses of allergens are placed on patches that look like adhesive bandages.

  • The patches are then placed on the skin (usually on your back). This usually takes about 40 minutes, depending on how many patches are applied.

  • You will wear the patches for 24 to 72 hours. Do not take a bath or shower or do any activities that could make you sweat excessively while you are wearing the patches. This could loosen the patches and cause them to fall off.

  • The patches will be removed by your health professional, and your skin will be checked for signs of an allergic reaction.

DIY Skin Patch Test  (Note. This method might not be more reliable than the actual patch testing by a Dermatologist.)

1.  Apply small doses of the product to sensitive areas of the skin like behind the ears, the joint of the elbow or joint between toes.

2.  Leave the product on for 24 to 72 hours.  Do not take a bath or shower or do any activities that could make you sweat excessively that would "wash" off the product.

3.  If by the end of the test period, there are no visible signs of allergic reactions which might consists of itchy rashes, redness, swelling and etc.  The product is most probably safe to use on the skin.

Skin tests

The major risk with the skin prick test or the intradermal skin test is a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include itching, wheezing, swelling of the face or entire body, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure that can lead to shock. An anaphylactic reaction can be life-threatening and is a medical emergency. Emergency care is always needed for an anaphylactic reaction. However, severe allergic reaction is rare, especially with the skin prick test.

If you are having a skin patch test and you have severe itching or pain under any of the patches, remove the patches and call your health professional.

What To Think About

  • You may not need allergy testing if you have mild allergies that are easily controlled with medication or lifestyle changes.

  • Skin tests:

    • Are the easiest and least expensive method for identifying allergies in most people.

    • Are more reliable than blood tests for identifying common inhaled (airborne) allergies, such as trees, pollens, dust, mold, and pet dander.

    • Cannot determine whether a person is reacting to a certain food. Further testing (such as an elimination diet) may be needed to identify this.

    • Can be unpleasant for children and their parents.

    • May take as long as 3 to 4 hours.


Skin tip of the day

Keep hair clean and out of your face to prevent additional dirt and oil from clogging your pores.

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