General Allergy Info

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is a reaction caused by your immune system to a harmless substance (allergen) which may be a food, a medication or something in the environment, e.g pollens, animals, moulds or dust.

Why Test for Allergies?

  1. To know whether you are allergic or not. This is important, as this will influence what medicine and treatment your doctor will prescribe.
  2. To identify allergens in the environment that can be avoided or controlled.
  3. To identify foods that you may be allergic to and need to avoid. Testing will also prevent unnecessary avoidance of food.
  4. If you are allergic to bee/wasp venom or environmental allergens like dust, pollens or animals, your doctor may prescribe allergen immunohtherapy (drops beneath the tongue or “allergy shots”) to cure you allergy.

What types of Allergy Tests can be done?

Blood tests and skin tests. More than one type of blood test can be done for the diagnosis of allergies, depending on which part of your immune system is involved. Your doctor will decide which tests are the most appropriate to diagnose your particular allergy. If your doctor referred you for skin prick testing, you need to stop taking all antihistamines at least 3 days before your test. Please be cautious of allergy tests offered by pharmacies and done by alternative practitioners, as these do not work and are not recommended by the Allergy Society of South Africa.

What do Allergy Tests cost?

Allergy tests vary in costs, but some allergy tests may be expensive. If you have any concerns about the costs involved, we recommend that you enquire at the AM PATH depot about the estimated costs. AMPATH follows a cost-effective approach to allergy diagnostic testing by using broader screening tests providing a “yes” or “no” answer to the question: “Could this be a food or inhalant allergy?’ AMPATH only performs breakdowns of these tests in individual components when they are positive. When a breakdown of a positive screening test is performed, it will add additional costs to your account. Be assured that breakdowns are performed as cost-effectively as possible and according to South African National guidelines and protocols, as well as your doctor’s specifications. You or your doctor may also request that no additional tests be added, regardless of the results of your screening tests. However, this approach is not recommended, as you will be unable to identify the offending allergen and manage your allergies appropriately. Please note that fees may differ for patients with medical aid cover, as fees are negotiated individually with each medical aid.

What do the Test Results mean?

Allergy test results can be complicated and should be interpreted by your doctor considering your specific history and your doctor’s examination. A follow-up consultation should always be arranged with your doctor to discuss your test results and for further management of your allergies.

Where can I find more Information on Allergies?

More information on allergies and allergen avoidance can be found on the website of the Allergy Society of South Africa:

List of Allergy Tests

Please click here to view our comprehensive list of Allergy Tests.

Allergy Approach Diagrams

Please click here to view our Allergy Approach Diagrams.