Should You Test Your Allergies at Home?

She also noted that doctors should be consulted once results were obtained.

"Even if you don't come up positive to allergy, there's no guarantee that you don't have allergies," she said. "We know we're not the end of your allergy testing."

But while MyAllergyTest is cheaper than a skin test administered by an allergist, doctors question its reliability and say they would likely retest rather than use its results.

"Some [tests] are more accurate than others, so it's tough to say how cost effective it is," said Miranowski. "If it's not a great assay that they're running, I wouldn't want to pay anything for it."

Most allergists in the United States would not conduct a blood test in the first place, because a skin test is considered the gold standard.

Blood Test May Be Best to Determine Allergies

"The best test ... is the skin test," said Dr. Dan Dalan, an allergist in Fargo, N.D., and a clinical associate professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine. "The majority of things you are allergic to will show up on the skin. That's a given."

Fairchild noted, however, that while U.S. physicians tend to use the skin test, the blood test is more common in Europe and elsewhere.

She noted that a blood test is unlikely to be contaminated for allergy testing, even when done at home.

"There's not much that would actually taint the sample," she said.

Even medications they may be taking would not be likely to cause a problem.

"The beauty is patients can continue to take antihistamines even when they're having the blood tested," she said.

The Benefits of Control

While Clowes said she would not use MyAllergyTest, she knows others who do.

"Some of the people in my support group have done this," she said.

The reason, she suspects, is tied to control of a medical condition.

"With chronic conditions you try to do it on your own," she said. "I guess if that works this is OK, but I want someone to help me even decide what to test."

Invariably, some patients who use the test to self-diagnose will make a change that relieves their allergy symptoms.

"The scenario there is if it makes you feel better, God bless you," Bielory said. "In allergy, the placebo effect is 20-30 percent."

He said some people will inevitably test positive for dust mites, cover their mattress and pillows, and feel better.

At the same time, for most who have dust mite allergies, the coverings will not be enough, and they will find themselves growing frustrated, and then they will need further testing.

"Does that really save you the money?" Bielory asked. "What happens to the person who doesn't feel better? It's a whole environmental control process."

And environment may be the problem with a standard home allergy test.

Miranowski said that some of the 10 things tested for aren't present in her area, and many of the problem trees in Virginia aren't tested for, so the test wouldn't help allergy sufferers there.

Random Allergy Tests May Not Help

"Mountain cedar, while that's really big in Texas, you're not going to have that in Massachusetts," she said. "You're testing for 10 random things."

She said she agrees that the placebo effect will likely play a role in many who think the test would help.

"We want to feel better, so if anyone has any problems, they always think something they do is going to make them better," she said.


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