Specific IgE ("RAST")
Measurement of IgE to specified allergens can help to confirm allergies suspected on clinical grounds. Results must be interpreted in the context of a detailed clinical history, and neither positive or negative results are diagnostic in isolation. The allergens to be tested must be specified on the request. This test is not suitable for broad "allergy screening" in the absence of a history suggestive of an allergic reaction.
Skin Prick Testing
In many cases skin prick testing provides a safe and simple alternative to specific IgE measurement, but this does require referral.
Referrals are accepted for the investigation and management of patients who have suffered anaphylaxis and patients with the the following allergic conditions:
Clear allergic precipitants can be identified in only a small proportion of cases. Patients may respond well to regular treatment with antihistamines.
Skin-prick testing for a range of food allergens is available. "Screening" is not appropriate, and diet and symptom diaries often help to identify suspected foods for testing. Patients with life-threatening reactions benefit from detailed advice and individualised management plans.
Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma
Skin prick testing can help to identify significant aeroallergens in these patients, which may held in planning medical management. Pollen desensitisation may be offered under certain circumstances: patients will only be considered if adequate medical therapy has failed, and certain other suitability criteria are fulfilled.
Bee/Wasp Venom Allergy
Assessment of patients who have suffered severe reactions to bee or wasp stings is offered. In some cases desensitisation immunotherapy is indicated to prevent anaphylaxis in individuals at particular risk.
Antibiotic and Anaesthetic Allergies
Suspected antibiotic allergy (especially to penicillin) is common, and can usually be circumvented by the choice of an alternative antibiotic. In exceptional circumstances allergy testing may be appropriate. It is often important to exclude or identify allergy to local and general anaesthetic agents, so that future routine or emergency treatment can be given safely. A detailed history of the suspected anaesthetic reaction and the anaesthetic agents used are vital to successful assessment. Testing of serum tryptase levels immediately after an anaphylactic episode often aids diagnosis (see Laboratory Services).