About Allergy & Immunology

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How Do Doctors Test for Allergies?

The doctor suspects that my son has allergies and recommended that we get him tested. What kind of tests should we expect?
- Polly

The two main types of allergy tests are skin tests and blood tests:

  1. A skin test (also called a scratch test) is the most common allergy test. With this test, the doctor or nurse will put a tiny bit of an allergen (like pollen or food) on the skin, then prick the outer layer of skin or make a small scratch on the skin. If the area swells up and becomes red (like a mosquito bite), the test is said to be positive, meaning that the child is allergic to that substance. Skin testing allows the doctor to see within about 15 minutes if a child is allergic to the substances tested.
  2. A blood test may be used if a skin test can't be done. It takes a few days to get the results of blood tests.

Talk to your doctor or allergist about the specific test that will be done.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: April 2015