Allergy Testing: Does Your Child Need It? The Answer May Surprise You

Healthy Living

About 5 percent of American children and 4 percent of adults do suffer from a food allergy, but there are a lot more children and adults getting unnecessary allergy testing these days.

Specific blood and skin prick tests can help identify food allergies, but the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases does recommend them for everyone. The only for people who’ve had immediate allergic reactions, have a certain type of inflammation of the esophagus, or have moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, which appears as a skin rash.

Testing isn’t warranted for conditions like hay fever, mild dermatitis and hives that have no apparent cause.

If you suspect a food allergy, keep a log with these details about each food in question:

  • How many minutes after eating the food did symptoms start?
  • Have you eaten this food before and had a reaction?
  • How much of the food did you eat prior to the symptoms showing?
  • Do you always have a reaction with certain foods?
  • Does taking allergy medication, like an antihistamine, help releive symptoms?

 Do you know the most common food allergens?

  • Peanuts
  • eggs
  • Milk
  • Tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews)
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish (such as shrimp)
  • Fish
  • Soy

Remember that the only way to truly diagnose a food allergy is with an oral food challenge, which is a test that actually puts someone at risk for a serious allergic reaction. So if you do testing, remember to go to an experienced health care professional.

Outgrowing Food Allergies

Most of the time kids with food allergies will outgrow them. For example, of those who are allergic to milk, about 80% will eventually outgrow the allergy, and two-thirds with allergies to eggs and about 80% with a wheat or soy allergy will outgrow those by the time they’re 5 years old.

Allergies You Can’t Outgrow Or Get Worse With Age

However there are other food allergies that are harder to outgrow. Only about 20% of people with allergies to peanuts and about 10% of those allergic to tree nuts outgrow the allergies.

Fish and shellfish allergies usually develop later in life and are even more rarely outgrown.

Misdiagnosing Food Allergies Can Lead to Nutritional Deficiencies

Misdiagnosed allergies can lead to nutritional deficiencies, anxiety and high medical expenses. So talk to your doctor about other options, like keeping a food log, before you start the testing process.

When researchers evaluated people getting tested at one clinic, only one-third had a medical history that suggested food allergy testing was warranted, yet nearly half were already avoiding certain foods. When patients were looked at more closely, nearly 90 percent of those avoiding foods were able to put at least one of them back in their diet.

More Information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a comprehensive guide to diagnosing and managing food allergies.

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