More time outdoors can pose dangers for people who are allergic to certain foods or stinging insects. Discovering what you are allergic to might seem like a guessing game. However, testing performed by an expert like an allergist or immunologist can diagnose what does—and does not—trigger your symptoms.

If you are troubled by any of these nagging symptoms, ask your doctor for a referral to an allergist:

  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat

  • Nasal congestion or runny nose

  • Watery eyes

  • Hives, itchiness or other skin conditions

  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea after eating certain foods

  • Severe reactions to insect stings

Allergy tests are the best and safest way to tell exactly what triggers your symptoms. An allergist has specialized training to perform and interpret the different types of allergy testing.

1. Skin tests

This is the most common kind of testing. In this test, a small amount of allergen is placed on your skin, and this area is pricked or scratched. If you are allergic, you’ll experience a little swelling at the site of the prick test. Results are usually available within 15 minutes.

2. Intradermal tests

These are more sensitive than prick tests, and may be used when prick test results are inconclusive. In this test, your allergist will use a syringe to inject some allergen under your skin.

3. Challenge tests

Challenge tests are sometimes used when a doctor suspects you have a food or drug allergy. In this test, patients eat or inhale a very small amount of the possible allergen under an allergist’s close supervision. Do not try this test at home.

4. Blood tests

For this test, blood is drawn and then tested for allergies. This test costs more than some other tests. It will also take longer to receive your results.

You should beware of alternative allergy testing methods such as IgG testing, home allergy testing kits, applied kinesiology and skin titration. There is not overwhelming evidence suggesting these tests are useful or effective. Once you know exactly what you are allergic to, you and your allergist will be able to develop a treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your allergy symptoms.