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Systemic reactions from skin testing: literature review


G. Liccardi1, G. D’Amato1, G. Walter Canonica2, A. Salzillo1, A. Piccolo1, G. Passalacqua2

1Department of Chest Diseases. Division of Pneumology and Allergology. «A. Cardarelli» Hospital, Naples, Italy
2Allergy and Respiratory Diseases, DIMI, Genoa, Italy

J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2006; Vol. 16(2): 75-78



Summary.  The skin prick test (SPT) is the most appropriate diagnostic approach to identify IgE sensitization to aeroallergens, foods, hymenoptera venom and some pharmacological compounds. SPT is considered a safe diagnostic approach, but several fatal or near-fatal reactions have been described. Based on the literature, the occurrence of systemic reactions with inhalant allergens has diminished over the last thirty years, whereas fresh food, hymenoptera venom and antibiotic SPT still carry some risk. In general, the risk of systemic reactions is lower with SPT than with intradermal testing.
Some patients (history of previous anaphylactic reactions, small children, pregnant women, uncontrolled asthma, high degree of reactivity) should be considered at higher risk of systemic/anaphylactic reactions.
Based on the literature, the risk of fatality due to SPT is extremely remote, and severe/anaphylactic reactions are rare. Nevertheless, this risk cannot be completely excluded, especially in highly susceptible subjects. Physicians who perform SPT should be aware of this and apply simple precautional rules.

Key words
: Anaphylaxis, allergy, skin prick test(ing), systemic reactions, fatality.