Got an allergy? Get a patch test.

Submitted by Kevin Pederson on February 4, 2013

Our skin often reveals allergy symptoms such as redness, welts, breakouts, hives, swollen or bumpy skin, inflammation and burning, irritation and itching. Some of these symptoms may be triggered as soon as we encounter the allergen, while others may develop over a period of 24 to 72 hours.


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Skin testing for allergies allows us to identify the various substances that are causing our symptoms. If we can pre determine the allergens that affect us, we will be in a better position to avoid them or treat to it.

Different Types of Skin Testing

Skin testing procedures depend on the method you choose.

Common types of skin testing methods include:

  • Scratch test involves a puncture or a prick on the outer layer of the skin. Extracts of different allergens are introduced in this area to test for reactions.
  • In an intradermal test, a tiny amount of allergen is injected under the skin.
  • A skin patch test, involves placing adhesive patches smeared with allergens on your arm or back. Your doctor will test reactions to these allergens over a period of two days to determine if you show symptoms.

Patch Testing: What to Expect?

A skin patch test does not use needles or syringes. Therefore, there is no fear of bleeding or infections. Your doctor may recommend a skin patch test to detect a delayed reaction to allergens. In adults, adhesive patches are placed on the arms, while in children they are placed on the back. In patients suffering from contact dermatitis (allergic skin irritation), a skin patch test may identify the allergens triggering the response.

The patch test involves exposure to 20 or 30 different kinds of allergens such as medications, latex, perfumes, preservatives, hair color or dyes, metals and resins. While wearing the patch, you cannot take a shower or participate in activities that would cause heavy sweating.

Patch Testing Essential Oil

Individuals with hypersensitive skin often notice allergic reactions to perfumes, deodorants, cosmetic powder, and make up that may contain fragrances. Hypersensitivity may also cause reactions if the skin encounters certain herbs or plants and their extracts.

Common essential oils such as lavender or tea tree oil may also cause skin sensitivity and related symptoms in individuals.

  • An essential oil skin patch test before use can help determine if it is safe to use.
  • Always dilute essential oils by following instructions.
  • Concentrated or undiluted essential oils are highly active and may cause burns or dermal irritation.
  • If you are using an essential oil for the first time, dilute the essential oil and place 1 to 2 drops on your arm. Apply an adhesive bandage and observe any reactions over a 24-hour period.
  • If you do notice skin irritation, remove the adhesive and wash area with mild soap and warm water. If there is no contact dermatitis post 24 hours, it is safe to use the diluted essential oil.

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