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Evidence to Improve Care

Skin Testing for Allergic Rhinitis


Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee Recommendation


The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommends that skin tests for allergic rhinitis continue to be publicly funded.

Read the full OHTAC Recommendation report



Allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever) causes nasal congestion and other symptoms that develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to airborne allergens. This condition affects 10% to 40% of people worldwide and 20% to 25% of Canadians.


Health Quality Ontario Reviews Skin Testing for Allergic Rhinitis

There are two types of skin tests—skin-prick testing and intradermal testing - that are used to find out what substances (allergens) people are allergic to. Both tests involve inserting a drop of an allergen under the skin, either by scratching it or using a needle to inject the allergen between layers of the skin, to see if it creates a small rash-like reaction.

Each year in Ontario, about two million skin tests for allergic rhinitis are funded through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. A patient may get many skin tests at the same time, since each test is for a different allergen.

Although these tests are common, there are questions about how accurate they are. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care asked Health Quality Ontario to assess the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of skin tests for allergic rhinitis and to make a recommendation about whether they should continue to be publicly funded or not.

Based on the evidence, skin-prick testing is reasonably accurate in identifying patients with allergic rhinitis. Although the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis can often be made without skin testing, the tests are very useful in some patients.


Skin Testing for Allergic Rhinitis: A Health Technology Assessment (PDF)
May 2016


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The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has accepted this recommendation.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has provided the following response: Skin testing for allergic rhinitis is currently insured in Ontario.




Health Technology Assessment at Health Quality Ontario

As part of our core function to promote health care supported by the best available evidence, we use established scientific methods to analyze the evidence for a wide range of health interventions, including diagnostic tests, medical devices, interventional and surgical procedures, health care programs and models of care. These analyses are informed by input from a range of individuals, including patients and clinical experts. The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC) — a committee of the Health Quality Ontario board of directors — reviews the evidence and makes recommendations about whether health care interventions should be publicly funded or not. Draft recommendations are posted on the Health Quality Ontario website for feedback. Final recommendations are approved by our board of directors and then shared with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. For more detailed information, visit our Evidence to Improve Care pages.



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