Learn about the different allergy testing pricing options
There are a number of different tests that an allergist might administer in order to determine what a patient is allergic to, whether their allergies are seasonal, and how they can best treat their patient’s allergy.
The most common are skin tests and Blood tests. Skin tests are the most inexpensive (and common). However, each test has some pros and cons associated with it, including the cost of allergy testing.
The final price is complicated by health insurance; a rather confusing subject, but lets take a look and try to sort through it!
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How Much Does Allergy Testing Cost?
The allergy test cost is not necessarily the same as what a patient typically pays out-of-pocket. The payment depends on your insurance plan and the relationship between your insurer and your doctor.
When trying to figure out how much allergy testing will cost you, there are some things that you can look for. Some questions to help figure out the cost of allergy testing include:
- What is my deductible? Your deductible is the amount you pay before insurance will start to contribute.
- What is my co-pay? Your co-pay is the minimum cost per visit.
- What is my co-insurance? Your co-insurance is the percentage of the total cost (post deductible) that your are responsible for.
- Is the allergist a network provider with my health insurance? If yes, then you will want to know what the allowable cost is for the test you are interested in. If no, then what is the allergy test cost quoted by the allergist?
Allowable cost can be a confusing concept, so lets take a look at an expample to help understand it better: If an allergist charges $100 for a test, but they are a network provider with your insurance, and the allowable cost determined by the insurance company is $70, then you and your insurance will only be charged $70 (the remaining $30 is written off). If the allergist is not a network provider, then you may be responsible for the full $100.
Most allergy tests will be covered by health insurance, and the specialist administering the test will most likely be a network provider. If that is the case, the final allergy test cost will have more to do with the health insurer’s allowable cost for the specific test.
Each test has a specific Current Procedural Terminology code (e.g. CPT code 95004 for a skin scratch test), so the best way to get a cost estimate is to contact your health insurance provider and ask them what the allowable cost is for a specific CPT code. Prices quoted in this article were sourced from the Fair Health Consumer website.
How much is an allergy test? It will probably cost around $70 with insurance coverage. Without insurance the cost will range from approximately $200 to $1000 depending on the test and number of allergens tested for.
Read on to find out more about the different tests including their CPT codes and the approximate allergy test cost of each type!
Skin Tests: Allergy Test Cost
Skin tests are the most common type of allergy testing procedure. They are quick, safe, and reliable. Although it might seem like a skin test would be limited to testing for skin allergies, skin tests actually can be used to test a wide variety of allergic conditions including:
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever):
- Allergic asthma
- Food allergies
- Penicillin allergy
- Bee, wasp, and hornet venom allergies
- Latex allergies
- Mold allergies
How much is an allergy test? Skin tests are most commonly prick tests, but there are other types of skin tests that are intended for specific purposes, each with slightly different costs.
- Skin prick test (or scratch test): CPT code 95004 — During a skin prick test, a small amount of an allergen is placed on the skin. The skin is then pricked or scratched, and if the patient is allergic to the allergen there will be swelling at the test site. How much does allergy testing cost for a skin test? The allergy test cost for a skin prick test will be approximately $5 per allergen. This is the cheapest and most common test.
Did you know? Skin tests for allergies can test up to 40 allergens simultaneously!
- Intradermal test: CPT code 95024 — In some cases allergy test results from skin prick tests are inconclusive. In such circumstances another allergy testing procedure known as an intradermal test might be administered if the allergy doctor still has reason to believe there may be an allergy. For intradermal tests the allergy doctor will use a syringe to inject allergens underneath the skin, and watch the injection site for reaction. The allergy test cost for an intradermal test is approximately $10 per allergen.
- Intradermal/Scratch combination tests — An intradermal test might be combined with a scratch test when testing specifically for allergies to penicillin (CPT code 95018; $15 to $65) or to venom (CPT code 95017; $5 to $15) per allergen. The number of allergens tested for with these tests are fewer than a prick test, so the allergy test cost of these might be lower even though each allergen is more expensive.
- Patch test: CPT code 95044 — Occasionally a patch test is done to test for a specific allergen causing contact dermatitis (e.g. latex, metals, fragrances, medications, preservatives, resins, and hair dyes). With patch tests no needles are used. Instead, allergens are applied to a patch and the patch is worn for approximately 48 hours. After 72 to 96 hours the patient will return to the doctor and the patch site will be inspected for presence of an allergic reaction. The allergy test cost for a patch test is approximately $5 to $15 per allergen.
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Do skin allergy tests hurt?
When you get allergy tested you might feel some slight discomfort, but skin prick tests are not painful. Skin prick tests use a needle, but they barely go beneath the surface of the skin. There is no bleeding, and if any discomfort is felt it is only momentarily. Intradermal tests are only slightly more uncomfortable, and patch tests do not hurt, although they may be irritating if allergens cause itchiness.
In some circumstances a skin test might be inappropriate. An allergy doctor might recommend a different allergy testing procedure if:
- You have had a severe allergic reaction in the past. A small amount of allergen could trigger anaphylaxis (a life threatening allergic reaction) and a skin test might be considered unsafe.
- You take medications that could skew allergy test results. Some medications such as antihistamines deter an allergic reaction from developing even if the patient is allergic. Other medications can increase the chance of having a severe allergic reaction to a skin test. Certain types of antidepressants, some heartburn medications, and omalizumab (an asthma medication) can also interfere with allergy test results.
- You have certain skin conditions (e.g. eczema or psoriasis) that prohibit suitable testing sites. Skin on the arms (common for adults) or back (more common with allergy testing for kids) are typical sites for skin tests; if there is not enough skin that is symptom free, then a skin test for allergies might not be doable.
If a skin test is deemed inappropriate, then a blood test is often the next allergy testing procedure to be considered.
Allergy Blood Test Cost
An allergy testing procedure known as a blood test can help determine if there is an allergy present in your system. A blood allergy test can be advantageous compared to a skin test because it can be done at any time, regardless of any current medications you may be taking. A blood allergy test might also be more appropriate for patients with heart conditions, poorly controlled asthma, skin conditions that preclude skin tests, or a history of anaphylaxis.
Unfortunately blood tests do have some disadvantages: they are more expensive, take longer, and are less sensitive (potentially less accurate) than skin tests.
A blood test is the preferred allergy testing procedure when allergy testing for kids that are very your or infants.
How do blood allergy tests work? During allergic reactions, the body produces extra immunoglobulin E (IgE), which are antibodies in the blood stream that help fight off a perceived threat. With a blood allergy test, a sample of blood is drawn with a needle from a vein in the patient’s arm. After a blood sample is collected it is analyzed in a laboratory for IgE levels. Elevated IgE levels indicate the patient is allergic.
Allergy blood test accuracy and allergy blood test results explained — A blood test for allergies will come out negative or positive. A negative result indicates there is no allergic response to the allergies tested, whereas a positive result indicates the patient has an allergy. Total IgE levels only indicate an allergy is present, but it does not inform you about which allergen causes the reaction. Specific IgE tests (CPT code 86003) are required to identify specific allergen(s).
False negatives can result, meaning the test shows that the patient is not allergic even though they actually are. False positives can also occur, where the blood allergy test results indicate the patient is allergic when they are really not. The allergy blood test accuracy is less reliable than skin tests. For this reason, blood allergy test results should be interpreted with caution by an experienced allergy doctor.
How much does allergy testing cost for a blood test? For a Specific IgE test (CPT code 86003) the cost per allergen is $5 to $20 (approximately $200 to $1000 total, without insurance).
Other allergy testing procedures
There are alternative allergy testing procedures that exist, but are not recommended by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Be skeptical of immunoglobulin G (IgG) tests, at home allergy testing kits, applied kinesiology and skin titration tests. It is best to be tested by a board-certified allergist.
Additional Allergy Test Costs
If a patient is diagnosed with an allergy, medications or immunotherapy might be recommended. Immunotherapy can cost up to $4000 for the first year if the patient does not have insurance. For patients without insurance, some doctors will offer discounts up to 35% off if the patient pays with cash or credit card.
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When to Contact a Doctor
It is extremely important to seek immediate medical attention if someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Such reactions are life-threatening, and you should not wait to see if symptoms dissipate.
Allergy test cost — if you want to find out how much a test will cost, it is best to contact your insurance provider and ask what the allowable charge is for a specific CPT code.
Other allergy related reasons to contact a doctor include the following:
- Chronic sinus infections, congestion, or difficulty breathing.
- Symptoms of allergies several months out of the year.
- If over-the-counter allergy treatments do not help or cause undesirable side-effects.
- Asthma or allergies inhibit day-to-day activities or quality of life.
- Warning signs of serious asthma attacks such as: difficulty breathing, wheezing or coughing, or tightness in the chest.
Medicine for allergy relief can cause side effects and complications when combined with other drugs. It is particularly important to contact a doctor before using allergy medicine if:
- Pregnant or breast-feeding
- Chronic health conditions exist such as glaucoma, diabetes, osteoperosis, high blood pressure, etc.
- Taking other medications
- Treating allergies in a child
- Treating allergies for elderly patients
- Current allergy medicine isn’t working
A visit with a doctor or allergist might include:
- Allergy testing
- Immunotherapy, which is a treatment that periodically injects allergens with the goal of desensitizing the body, resulting in relief.
If you think you might have an allergy or need medical advice on managing symptoms of allergies, call or book online with PlushCare to set up a phone appointment with a top U.S. doctor today. To learn more about allergy testing, click here.