At some point, most people have experienced a negative skin reaction to something. The question is, what is that something? Whether the reaction is extreme and presents symptoms like hives and blistering or is more minor with symptoms like itchy or red skin, it’s important that you find out what you’re allergic to and avoid it in the future.
In order to find out, dermatologists may recommend an allergy patch test which will determine whether your skin is being aggravated by something you’ve come in contact with at work, at home or outside. These substances that cause skin reactions are called allergens.
Think you might have an allergy? You’re not alone! Allergy UK estimates four out of every 10 people in Britain are allergic to something.
Whether you’re suddenly itchy after using a new skincare product or have come out in a rash after putting on a pair of latex gloves, an allergy patch test will help you find the cause. I sat down with Jennifer, the nurse at The London Skin and Hair Clinic, to find out what exactly one should expect from an allergy patch test. I even got one myself!
Here is everything you should know.
What is Tested?
41 different allergens are tested, all of which are relevant to Britain. In particular, the test focuses on allergens we come in contact with in day-to-day life, for example: metals, plants, preservatives, or substances found in adhesives. The allergy patch test administered at The London Skin and Hair clinic does not test for any food allergies but it is possible to test your reaction to your own personal toiletries like perfumes, cosmetics, lotions and even medications like steroids.
Why Should I Get Tested?
Allergy tests are recommended for any adult experiencing a contact skin irritation, especially if the irritation is appearing in correlation with a new job, new prescription medications, a recent move, or a new skincare regime/product.
What is the Process?
An allergy patch test will require three visits to The London Skin and Hair Clinic, each spaced 48 hours apart. This means you’ll need some time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to come in. Don’t worry! None of the appointments will take up too much of your time.
Before the appointment, Jennifer will label five panels with the numbers 1-41. Each number corresponds with a different allergen sample which is deposited carefully on to the chamber.
Your first appointment will take around 45 minutes and requires that you provide a detailed medical history as well as any information about recent skin reactions. Nurse Jennifer will then apply all the panels to the top of your back. The application is completely painless and unobtrusive. Once on, you won’t even know they’re there!
At the second appointment, the patches will be carefully removed and examined and Nurse Jennifer will go over your initial results. Please be advised: If, between Monday and Wednesday, you’re experiencing any discomfort, please contact the clinic.
Finally, at the third appointment, you’ll meet with a dermatologist who will conduct a final reading and advise you whether or not you have reacted to any of the allergens tested.
Do’s and Don’ts Before and During the Patch Test
DO make sure your upper back is clean and dry ahead of your first appointment.
DON’T use moisturizer up to four hours before your appointment.
DO make sure any eczema on your back has cleared up before your appointment.
DON’T expose your skin to too much sun for at least two weeks beforehand.
DO avoid physical activity that might cause perspiration while the patch test is on your back.
DON’T apply topical steroids to the back beforehand.
DO wear loose clothing.
What if I am Allergic to Something?
If you are found to have an allergy, reactions can vary from mild to more severe. But, don’t worry. The reaction will be contained to the small area on your back where the patch was tested. Once it’s determined what you have reacted to, you’ll be referred to a dermatologist at The London Skin and Hair Clinic who will give you more information about the allergen itself and how to avoid it.
To book an allergy patch test with Nurse Jennifer at The London Skin and Hair clinic or if you have any questions about the test itself, get in touch today!