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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Are You 'Really' Allergic to That?

Published January 17, 2011 10:16 AM by Joe Darrah

If you're one of the 30 percent of Americans who “claims” to have a specific food allergy, a new report may be enticing enough to convince you to be retested to ensure you “really” are allergic to those foods you're avoiding.

According to the report “Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States” conducted for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases by an expert panel of 25 members, many U.S. adults and children are mistaken about allergies they believe they’re living with.

Misdiagnosis is largely blamed for the confusion. Researchers said over-reliance on skin tests and blood tests for antibodies have led to misleading results. According to the report, antibody presence to a food substance does not assure that someone would experience an allergic reaction if that product were to be ingested. Additionally, a skin-*** test can remain positive long after an allergy is gone, researchers said.

In some cases allergies are being reported without any formal testing and instead are being based on a patient’s or parent’s claims of a “bad reaction” to a particular food. According to researchers, people often mistake food intolerance, such as difficulty digesting lactose in milk, for an allergy.

The only sure way to diagnose a food allergy is to undergo what’s known as an oral challenge, a procedure in which a suspect food is consumed in the presence of an experienced healthcare provider with emergency measures at the ready and treatment is provided if necessary.

However, researchers acknowledge that providers are often reluctant to utilize this measure. Still, the panel advises against the over-reliance on assumptions or tests that can prove false, especially when it comes to growing babies and children, due to deficiencies that can result from improper nutrition.

Researchers said most children outgrow allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat. While those with egg allergies are not to receive a flu shot, researchers say it is safe to receive vaccination for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella.  

In all, about one child in 20 and one adult in 25 lives with a food allergy, according to the study.

So, it may be time for you to be retested. Oh, and pass the peanut butter.


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