Reliability of allergy skin testing

Maria Shtessel, Jody Tversky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Percutaneous allergen skin testing remains an established benchmark for diagnosing atopic disease. The reliability of skin testing depends greatly on the performance of allergen extracts used, methods used, and the presence of antihistamine medications. Objective To determine the differential effect of cetirizine on 2 different concentrations of histamine control solution and 5 common allergens used for percutaneous skin testing. Methods Twelve individuals underwent skin testing with histamine (1 and 6 mg/mL), control diluent, and 5 common aeroallergens. Wheal and flare measurements were measured in a masked fashion by a single operator. Cetirizine was administered for 4 consecutive days to determine the effect on both histamine and allergen wheal and flare responses. Results A total of 384 skin tests were performed on 12 volunteers. Cetirizine began to suppress wheal and flare responses at 1 hour (P <.05), with maximum suppression at day 5 (P <.05). Wheal and flare responses returned to greater than 90% baseline within 4 days of not taking cetirizine. Suppression was more apparent with 1 vs 6 mg/mL of histamine (62% vs 33%). Four of the 12 individuals taking cetirizine had a positive skin test result using 6 mg/mL of histamine control when the 1-mg/mL histamine test result was negative. Importantly, twice as many individuals had false-negative allergen responses using 6 mg/mL of histamine vs the 1 mg/mL as a positive control, although this finding did not reach statistical significance. Conclusion The use of a 6-mg/mL histamine control for some percutaneous skin test devices may result in more false-negative allergen responses because of the inability to detect the presence of antihistamines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-83
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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