Food Allergy Misdiagnosis, New York Times

This New York Times article,"Telling Food Allergies From False Alarms" By TARA PARKER-POPE is a must read for everyone, just what I’ve been talking about here and here and what we touched upon at Sunday’s Worry-Free Dinner.

More than 11 million Americans, including 3 million children, are estimated to have food allergies, most commonly to milk, eggs, peanuts and soy. The prevalence among children has risen 18 percent in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the increase appears to be real, so does the increase in misdiagnosis...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...“The only true test of whether you’re allergic to a food or not is whether you can eat it and not react to it,” said Dr. David Fleischer, an assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health.

Read the whole article here.


Jenny said…
This article makes a lot of sense and makes you think. My youngest son has tested positive for eggs and peanuts. Peanuts we know, but he hasn't been exposed to eggs. We might have to food test him to see if he is. Good article post!
Meghann said…
I wholeheartedly agree! My mother and I both tested negative in the blood test for Celiac Disease. However, given the fact that any gluten in our systems creates quite nasty, gross responses within an hour or two makes us sure we have it. I also had other tests come back negative for other foods, when I know that I get violently ill when eating the foods. Thanks for the info!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting this link! We've been wondering about the connection between these tests and actual allergic reactions ourselves.
Okay, there is some good to come out of this debate highlighted in this article and then debated on the Today show. Media attention, positive or negative, to food allergies gets people talking and thinking. Hopefully this leads to more interest which may lead to further research for causes and cures.

We need to keep emphasizing that a reputable allergist, using the best tests available, helps people decide how to best handle their, or their child's, food allergies. We need the support of the medical community, our schools, our neighbors, our families and the media as we make our way through the confusing and conflicting information we sometimes receive. Let's keep talking!

The Food Allergy Assistant
Jennifer B said…
I liked the way the information was presented, respectful and mindful of those who do have real food allergies. Wouldn't it be great if 1/3 of food allergy sufferers didn't actually have a food allergy or perhaps are allergic to fewer foods?

We found out about my son's peanut allergy because of the shocking reaction (hives everywhere/mouth hurting/coughing/hoarseness/clutching at throat/etc) he had after putting a Reese' piece in his mouth at age 3. The allergist "confirmed" the allergy with a skin test and prescribed an epipen. He has had blood tests since then.

After reading the article and seeing the report on the Today show, it almost sounds as though doctors are diagnosing food allergies based purely on blood tests (and/or maybe skin tests) without a reaction ever having occurred. Did anyone else get that impression?
Anonymous said…
As the mother of a child who has gone into anaphylaxis, the trend of everyone's child being "allergic" is scary, because it desensitizes people to real alleries. It is hard for me to make people understand that a cashew can kill my daughter when they think that a severe allergy means an upset tummy. Great article. Thanks for keeping this blog.
Anonymous said…
As the mother of a child who has gone into anaphylaxis, the trend of everyone's child being "allergic" is scary, because it desensitizes people to real alleries. It is hard for me to make people understand that a cashew can kill my daughter when they think that a severe allergy means an upset tummy. Great article. Thanks for keeping this blog.
Katherine said…
JenniferB - well, yes - this is exactly what is happening more and more - diagnoses on ALMOST purely blood and skin tests. My first daughter had very severe eczema and her ped had me switch to supplementing her (she nursed poorly for her first several weeks) with soy - rather than milk based formula and referred her for allergy testing when she was nine months old. The testing was significantly positive - RASTS in categories V and VI for a number of foods - including the milk we suspected. Thereafter, a visit with a board certified allergist resulted in a diagnoses of severe multiple food allergies - milk, egg, tree nut, peanut, shellfish and fish - after food challenges for beef, chicken, corn and soy showed that those positives were false. No other food challenges were offered or have been offered since. She's five now. Still considered by the medical community - including a well known guru in my suburban maryland location - to have life threatening food allergies to those foods. This with the sum total of her clinical history being eczema and a single hiving reaction to a milk exposure.

And to MS2001 - the diagnosis of MY child desensitizes people to your struggle. My 5 yo has continued to be a non-reactive kid. While I suspect this may be because she was never truly allergic to other than milk - or that she's perhaps outgrown - the medical community does not so suspect. So, when I take my child to public school and explain to her supervisors that she shouldn't eat anything that isn't sent from home and that children should wash their hands after eating to avoid contaminating the classroom with allergens - that school will think those safeguards are good enough for life threatening food allergies, because they will most likely be all that is required for my non-reactive but diagnosed kid to glide through school in her normal non-reactive state. I'll be seen as the benchmark for what's good enough - and you'll be seen as an alarmist rather than a mom trying to protect a kid prone to reactions.

Pushing the medical community to give something other than an "avoid and carry" to their allergen naive and non-reactive patients is in everyone's interests.

As you may have guessed, I'm on board with Nat'l Jewish - challenges are the way to go. They need to be more available and more doctors need to be willing to do them when the test scores are high but not cooberated by a history. I'm waiting over a year to get same from the one folk in my area who will do them.
Denys said…
Love to read your blog. I had this exact thing happen to my 2 year old. 15 months ago he was "diagnosed" through his pediatricians blood tests to have allergies to: eggs, dairy, peanuts, wheat, soy & corn. He was sensitive, no doubt, to these items, but not until 13 mths later, last November, did I finally take him to an allergist, and I found out he is NOT allergic to any of the items - just sensitive. He can now tolerate everything except cow milk and wheat makes his eczema flare up. What a relief that I don't need to carry epi jr. pens around anymore - but it definitely has made me more aware of the seriousness of food allergies. I'm so glad you posted this article, and all the others. Keep it up!
Thank you for educating us. My youngest child is allergic to peas, lentils, soy, all nuts, and shellfish. Some of them are clear to me, but I need to follow up on the ones that are not. I have another child who is allergic to peanuts, celery & carrots. Just try to make a stew with that combination (we are reduced to meat, potatoes & onions).
Steve Ballmer said…
... well written people, I enjoy a good, interesting blog!
Susan Weissman said…
Yes, to all of who either have food allergies or live with them intimately (the findings Tara Parker-Pope's article articulate my expereinces with my son who is six) the crux of this article validates what we already live with. As helpful to me, at this point, is reading sites like this, where comments and real life experiences offer as much if not more information. For example - so interesting to read that Lemongrass makes you sleepy. My son shares this symptom on one food but his allergist is vague about my observation. Anecdotes are such good backbone to lab. research!

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