Many doctors use wrong test to diagnose kids food allergies

Primary care doctors often use the wrong test to diagnose food allergies in children, new research shows.

The practice can lead to overdiagnosis, with potentially harmful effects, including stunted growth due to unnecessary dietary restrictions, Dr. David Stukus, an author of the new study, told Reuters Health by phone.

Known as food allergy panels, these blood tests check for sensitization to several different allergens at once, including many foods that don’t provoke allergic reactions, such as fruits, vegetables and different types of meat.

Insurers pay for the test. But allergists agree that children should be tested for sensitization to allergens one at a time, and only if there’s strong evidence for a true food allergy.
Choosing Wisely, a public health campaign focused on reducing unnecessary and potentially harmful medical tests, specifically advises against using food allergy panels.

“These panels are marketed as convenient tools for physicians to obtain information about their patients regarding multiple allergens all at once,” Stukus said. “However, there are rare if any instances where the use of such panels would offer any useful information for patients.”

Misunderstanding of how to interpret food sensitization tests is widespread among physicians and patients, Stukus said, often leading to children being misdiagnosed with food allergies and put on unnecessarily restricted diets. In addition to putting children at risk of nutritional deficiency, Stukus noted, unnecessary dietary restrictions can actually increase a child’s likelihood of developing a true allergy down the road.

Source: Medisure Website

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