What is a skin prick test?

A skin prick test is a simple allergy testing procedure in which a number of allergens (in droplets) are placed on the skin -- usually on the forearm, upper arm, or back. The skin is then gently pricked, which allows the allergens to get into the skin cells. If this produces an allergic response -- temporary redness, swelling and itching at the test spot -- it means you're sensitive to that allergen. And the greater the reaction, the more likely it is that you're not only sensitive to it but also allergic to it.

Reactions to skin prick allergy tests usually appear fairly quickly, within 15-20 minutes. But it's also possible to have a delayed reaction several hours later. If this happens, notify your doctor or nurse.

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Your allergist may perform a skin prick test to discover what you are allergic to. The allergist will have solutions of common allergens. During the test, a small drop of each allergen solution is placed on your arm. Then your skin is pricked in order to expose your system to the allergen. Your arm will swell slightly at the pinprick point if you are allergic to that allergen.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.