Food allergy “testing” is usually a bad idea

Thanks Dr Benaroch for your insights from a pediatricians standpoint. We see patients everyday that have been told based on a “test” that their child has food allergy. The percentages vary, but a majority of children that are found to have a food allergy by testing, tolerate the food just fine after challenge. What are the exceptions? Peanut, tree nut, milk, and egg anaphylaxis should always be asked during patient histories. This is why meeting your patient and asking directed questions is so important!

The Pediatric Insider

The Pediatric Insider

© 2015 Roy Benaroch, MD

People like tests. You get numbers, and maybe a printout, and there’s science and blood and things just feels more… serious, when testing is done. You can picture Marcus Welby  (or perhaps a more modern physician), looking solemn, declaring “We’d better run some tests.”

Are medical tests magical and mysterious, and can they unlock the secrets of life? Usually, no. And among the worst and most misunderstood tests we do are food allergy tests.

A few recent studies illustrate this well. A review of about 800 patients referred to an allergy clinic found that almost 90% of children who had been told to avoid foods based on allergy testing could in fact eat them safely. The study, bluntly titled “Food allergen panel testing often results in misdiagnosis of food allergy” also found that the positive predictive value of food allergy blood…

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