Thursday 1 February 2024

My experience with allergy patch testing on the NHS

If you know me or were around during my frequent beauty blogging days then you might know I am a lifelong eczema sufferer. This year I was finally able to get some allergy patch testing done on the NHS, and I thought I'd share my experience with you in case it's something you have coming up or are curious about.

Appointment number 1!

How did I get patch testing on the NHS?

I have had several dermatology referrals over the years, but my most recent referral was around 2 years ago. I had been back and forth to the GP after regular flare ups, and was incredibly frustrated with the state of my red, itchy, dry and flaky skin. I had to wait until January 2024 for my appointment, which is a long time but not as long as others have had to wait. Small mercies!

When I visited the dermatologist, she prescribed a different steroid for my body eczema as well as a new emollient and also Protopic for my facial flares. She also told me to start taking vitamin D (as everyone in the UK should, especially during winter) and referred me for blood tests and patch testing. The bloods are to check my thyroid function, as this can impact your skin.

I then received three appointments for my patch testing at the hospital, spaced a couple of days apart.

Why do you have three appointments for patch testing?

Patch tests are split into three appointments - for me these were a Wednesday, Friday, and Monday. The first appointment is for the patches to be applied, all over your back and on the tops of your arms if need be, by a nurse. You then return to the second appointment where the nurse will remove the patches and make a note of which allergens you have reacted to - it's a complex grid system but they know exactly what they're doing! My first appointment lasted around 20 minutes, and I was out within about 10 minutes getting them taken off at my second patch testing appointment.

When they'd just been put on VS when they'd just been taken off

The letter had told me to bring the products I use with me, which I did (haircare, skincare, eczema creams etc) but at the appointments they didn't ask to see them or test them or anything.

Side note: I had roughly 141 allergens tested; I was told most people have around 54 common allergens tested, but they did a lot of cosmetics and medication for me on top of those.

The third appointment typically lasts a lot longer - this is when the dermatologist will 'read your back' and discuss with you what you have reacted to, what that means, how to avoid it and so on. They will give you printed information about each of your allergens which include common places they're found as well as other names for each one so you can be really informed of what to look for. At this appointment she did ask me about the products I use, but not in any great depth.

Is allergy patch testing painful?

The tests don't hurt at all, at least in my experience. They are, however, very annoying - mine covered my whole back and both arms, and they're stuck down with a tape which can be itchy/irritating even if you're not actually allergic to that. And then of course, if you have a reaction then that's likely to be annoying and itchy. I had four reactions, and one in particular was very red and angry looking as well as very itchy.

Side note: you're not allowed to get your back wet until your third appointment. This meant I showered Wednesday morning and then couldn't do so again 'til Monday evening when I got back from the hospital - which is gross and obviously uncomfortable, because a sink wash doesn't really cut it.

What were my allergens?

In case you're nosey like me, these were my allergens:

Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MI/MCI) - this is my most severe allergy!
Balsam of Peru - this is used in a lot of fragrances

MI and MCI have actually been banned in 'leave on' products such as moisturiser and sunscreen, as it is quite a common allergy found through patch tests. It is still found it cleansers, shampoos, shower gel and so on. Balsam of Peru, however, is in absolutely bloody everything. The other two are much less common.

An example of the print out you're given by the dermatologist

I have been using both the Yuka and SkinSAFE apps to scan and search products to see if they contain my allergens. Yuka definitely shows MI in the ingredients, but doesn't seem to show when BoP is present. SkinSAFE, however, has a BoP Free filter - but it is American, so I'm not 100% sure if the product ingredients are different in the UK. I'm erring on the side of caution, for sure...

I think that's everything I have to tell you about patch testing for allergies on the NHS but if you have any questions I will of course be more than happy to answer them! Stay tuned to see how I get on with cutting out all of the products in my life that have these allergens in.

No comments:

Post a Comment