The New York Times published an interesting article this week on food allergies. I will admit my first reaction was feeling like those of us who have children with allergies were being under minded...again. But, I read the entire article and found it very interesting, particularly those of us who deal with multiple food allergies.
Doctors say that misdiagnosed food allergies appear to be on the rise, and countless families are needlessly avoiding certain foods and spending hundreds of dollars on costly nonallergenic supplements. In extreme cases, misdiagnosed allergies have put children at risk for malnutrition.
And avoiding food in the mistaken fear of allergy may be making the overall problem worse — by making children more sensitive to certain foods when they finally do eat them.
I am not suggesting there is often a misdiagnosis of peanut allergies. Most of children with this diagnosis had a reaction...a violent reaction. That is proof positive that there is indeed an allergy. But, often food allergies come in pairs. Some children who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to other legumes or even soy. This diagnosis was made from blood work alone, oftentimes after that nasty peanut reaction.
Even though these children have eaten these things without any apparent problems in the past, parents become so terrified of seeing any repeat reactions that they avoid anything that might possibly illicit any sort of reaction. Certainly understandable!!
The article goes on to state:
While the blood tests can help doctors identify potentially risky foods, they aren’t always reliable. A 2007 issue of The Annals of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology reported on research at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, finding that blood allergy tests could both under- and overestimate the body’s immune response. A 2003 report in Pediatrics said a positive result on a blood allergy test correlated with a real-world food allergy in fewer than half the cases.
I know from personal experience that blood tests can be wrong. We had the opposite problem this article states. Blood work showed no peanut allergy. His food challenge resulted in a visit to the ER. Not only did he have a peanut allergy, it was a very bad one!
The article concludes with this:
Just as an allergy indicates oversensitivity to certain foods, it may be that doctors and parents have become oversensitive to food allergies. In an essay in The British Medical Journal in December, Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a professor at Harvard Medical School, argues that an “overreaction” to allergy is leading to unnecessary testing and false positives.“If the kid has been doing fine, I would advise parents not to get allergy testing, because the results are more likely to be false positives than true positives,” Dr. Christakis said in an interview. “If they do think they need allergy testing, be extremely measured and go to reputable people.”
You can read the entire article here. If you are dealing with multiple food allergies, this article might (or might not!) give you something to thik about. I will admit when we dealt with milk and egg allergy, I just accepted it and prayed it would go away. It did and life is much easier now. If, however, these two did not go away, I might look into the fact a possible misdiagnosis or overreaction.
Food allergies go much further than just what you put in front of your child at each meal. It affects them emotionally and physically, as well with their level of nutrition. As parents, we need to make sure all the food we are avoiding are absolutely necessary.
If this has piqued your interest, you should see your allergist (or possibly a different one than your regular one) to discuss this issue. (Please don't take matters into your own hands!)
(**Please let me reiterate that I am not asking my readers to question a PA diagnosis, particularly if there has been a past reaction. I am addressing this to people who are dealing with groups of foods and not just peanuts alone.**)