Diagnosis of type I hypersensitivities is a complex process requiring several diagnostic tests in addition to a well-documented patient history. Serum IgE levels can be measured, but elevated IgE alone does not confirm allergic disease. As part of the process to identify the antigens responsible for a type I reaction allergy, testing through a prick puncture skin test (PPST) or an intradermal test can be performed. PPST is carried out with the introduction of allergens in a series of superficial skin pricks on the patient’s back or arms. PPSTs are considered to be the most convenient and least expensive way to diagnose allergies, according to the US Joint Council of Allergy and the European Academy of Allergy and Immunology. The second type of testing, the intradermal test, requires injection into the dermis with a small needle. This needle, also known as a tuberculin needle, is attached to a syringe containing a small amount of allergen. Both the PPST and the intradermal tests are observed for 15–20 minutes for a wheal-flare reaction to the allergens. Measurement of any wheal (a raised, itchy bump) and flare (redness) within minutes indicates a type I hypersensitivity, and the larger the wheal-flare reaction, the greater the patient’s sensitivity to the allergen.
Type III hypersensitivities can often be misdiagnosed because of their nonspecific inflammatory nature. The symptoms are easily visible, but they may be associated with any of a number of other diseases. A strong, comprehensive patient history is crucial to proper and accurate diagnosis. Tests used to establish the diagnosis of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (resulting from type III hypersensitivity) include bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), pulmonary function tests, and high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT).
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology