January 28, 2021

Reasons Home Allergy Tests Probably Won’t Help You

Kits can prompt more questions than answers

woman with allergies

If you deal with allergies, you know it’s not always easy to figure out what’s causing an adverse reaction. But is a home allergy test the best way to pin that down?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Probably not, says allergist/immunologist Lily Pien, MD, MHPE.

Millions of Americans wrestle with allergies based on the season, exposure to pets or dust, or specific foods. Treatment depends on how severe your symptoms are and which allergy triggers (allergens) are involved.

Dr. Pien explains three main reasons why home allergy tests are not the best tool for pinpointing your problem.

1. You may not get accurate results

“A true allergy is defined as experiencing allergic symptoms after exposure to a known allergen,” Dr. Pien says. Either a skin test or a blood test can help to pinpoint the cause by looking for specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.

What home allergy kits test for isn’t always clear. For example, some kits don’t test for specific IgE antibodies, so their results may not reflect an actual allergy.

Some home tests may measure immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies instead of IgE antibodies to foods. “This type of testing does not reveal a true food allergy. It may cause significant harm by forcing people to avoid foods, making them believe they are allergic to several foods when they aren’t,” she says.


In addition, some home allergy tests may have you send in a hair sample instead of a blood sample. “Because there is no IgE in hair, results are not going to reflect a true food allergy,” Dr. Pien says.

2. You may be intolerant vs. allergic to food

If you notice that a certain food bothers you, you may assume you’re allergic to it. But there’s a big difference between food allergies and intolerance:

  • Food allergies engage your immune system. They can cause an immediate and possibly life-threatening reaction requiring immediate treatment with life-saving medication.
  • A food intolerance affects your digestive symptom and can lead to cramping or diarrhea (lactose intolerance is an example).

“If you want to know whether you have IgE-mediated food allergies, you need to have a skin test or blood test measuring specific IgE response to that food,” Dr. Pien advises. Food challenges are sometimes performed to help with the diagnosis.

And, when it comes to environmental factors such as pollen or dust, you may believe you have an allergy because your eyes are red and itchy. But you could have an eye infection.

The treatments are different for allergies and infections. “You may end up treating an incorrect diagnosis or the wrong thing unless you work with your doctor to find out exactly what’s causing your eye problems or other symptoms you’re having,” she says.

3. You need expert interpretation of the results

If you use a home allergy test, understanding the results can be difficult. Your doctor can help and should be involved. “Medical tests are best interpreted by consulting a healthcare provider,” Dr. Pien says.


That means you’ll need to see your doctor and may have to have additional tests done at the doctor’s office.

Even if your home test identifies a true allergen, it’s best to work with your doctor to treat your allergy.

Still going ahead with home tests?

If you decide to proceed with home testing, ask your doctor’s advice about specific products before your spend your money, Dr. Pien says.

Ultimately, you’ll get the best results and treatment advice from a board-certified or board-eligible allergist. “They will know which tests are appropriate for you, and will accurately interpret the results,” she says.

Related Articles

seed pods exploding in spring
February 27, 2023
Why Are My Allergies So Bad?

Time of day, time of year and weather patterns can all make your allergies worse

woman looking out rainy window
January 25, 2021
3 Health Conditions That Stormy Weather Can Make Worse

A rainy day can spell pain and discomfort for many

allergic woman washing sheets
December 8, 2020
Don’t Let Allergies Ruin Your Sleep

3 allergy relief tips to stop tossing and turning

thermometer through frosty window
October 9, 2020
It’s True — You Really Can Be Allergic to the Cold

What to do if cold urticaria gives you hives

Teenager and parent work on homework together on couch at home
December 8, 2023
Concerta vs. Vyvanse: Two Stimulant Medications for ADHD

Both meds have similar benefits and side effects

Aspirin poured onto table from bottle
December 7, 2023
Why You Are Sensitive to Aspirin

A reaction to the medication may trigger preexisting asthma and result in sinus or skin reactions

Person lifting up their sweater, showing ostomy bag in mirror's reflection
December 6, 2023
Adjusting to Life With an Ostomy Bag: What To Expect

It can be hard to get used to the bags, but the freedom they provide is worth the challenge

Happy caucasian woman hiking in forest
December 6, 2023
Forest Bathing: What It Is and Its Potential Benefits

Immersing yourself in nature can improve both your mental and physical health

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try