Childhood allergies are more common than you think. According to recent statistics, over 8.8 million children in the United States were diagnosed with a skin allergy, while 8.4 million were diagnosed with hay fever. Allergies can have a major impact on your child's well-being, which is why identifying specific allergens at the earliest opportunity is so important.
Allergy skin tests offer an effective way of uncovering the causes of certain allergic reactions, giving doctors better insight into potential short-term and long-term treatment options. For many children, however, going to the doctor can generate plenty of anxiety and uncertainty.
Here are a few things you can do to get your child through their allergy skin test.
Explain the Testing Process
The unknown can be scary for any child, especially when it concerns a trip to the doctor. Explaining to your child in uncomplicated terms what to expect during the test is one of the best ways of putting them at ease. Reassure them that the allergist is there to help and they'll only be exposed to a small amount of allergen during the test.
If your child shows curiosity about the percutaneous skin test, you can easily demonstrate how it's done by gently pressing a plastic toothpick against the skin. This example will provide your child with a little insight into the testing procedure and reassure them that it won't cause any serious harm. Once your child arrives at the allergist's office, he or she will get an up-close view of the instruments used for the test.
You should also explain what may happen if the test provokes a positive reaction to allergies. A positive reaction will produce localized swelling, akin to a mosquito bite. Explain how the nurse will take steps to reduce the swelling after measuring the reaction.
If your child is especially anxious or shows an aversion to the needles used for intradermal skin testing, you may need to provide a few distractions. Be ready to bring along toys and other items that can help distract your child from the test at hand.
Smartphones, tablets and handheld games can keep older kids' minds occupied during the skin test. For toddlers and younger, a favorite toy, pacifier or bottle can help keep their attention focused elsewhere. Regardless of what you bring, make sure those distractions won't cause a major disruption at the doctor's office.
Be Ready to Comfort
Most children don't cry when they go through the skin testing process. However, you should be ready to give your child the comfort he or she needs just in case. For instance, holding your child while providing plenty of praise and encouragement can help reduce anxiety and provide a soothing way to get through the test.
Some children may see going through allergy skin testing as a badge of honor, so be prepared to take pictures of their back or arm as proof. Your child may want to demonstrate to their siblings or friends how brave they were during the test.
Your child may be more willing to go through an allergy skin test if there is a reward involved. The prospect of an award after the test can give your child something to look forward to during the test. There's no need to make the reward an extravagant one—a tasty dessert or an affordable new toy should suffice.
If you have your own anxieties about allergy skin testing, remember that the entire process has evolved over the years to be gentler and less stressful. Services such as Southern Family Medicine Inc can help allay any fears you might have concerning the test, especially if you underwent a more painful version of it during your childhood.