Food Allergy Testing

Food Allergy Testing

The nation’s major allergy organizations agree on how best to diagnose and manage food allergies. The “practice parameters,” from a panel of allergy experts, are a state-of-the-art guide on how to detect and treat food allergy.

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Food allergies are common — and commonly misunderstood by doctors as well as patients, says panel co-chairman Jay M. Portnoy, MD, who is chief of allergy, asthma, and immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and vice president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

“I see patients all the time who go to a doctor, skin-test positive for lots of different foods, and are advised to avoid all of these foods,” Portnoy tells WebMD. “It makes their life miserable. And it turns out they are not truly allergic to all these foods after all.”

Jay M. Portnoy, MD

Portnoy’s complaint rings true with patient advocate Anne Muñoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

“Some parents never suspect food allergies until their child ends up at the emergency room — where they might be told it is a food allergy, or they might not,” Muñoz-Furlong tells WebMD. “Or if the child first has mild symptoms, like eczema, they may not realize it is a food allergy. And then the entire family suffers until a diagnosis is made and the food is eliminated from the diet.”

Anne Muñoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

Food allergies occur when a sensitive person eats, inhales, or comes into contact with even tiny amounts of certain foods. These reactions occur with exposure to proteins called allergens and can be very mild or may be life-threatening.

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The Most Common Food Allergies

In children, the most common food allergies are:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Hen’s eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat

In adults, the most common food allergies are:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans (such as shrimp, crabs, and lobster)
  • Mollusks (such as clams, oysters, and mussels)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Symptoms tend to occur just after eating, inhaling, or coming into contact with the offending food. Symptoms may include reddening of the skin, hives, itchy skin, swollen lips or eyelids, tightness of the throat, wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Allergy Symptom Diary

You may know exactly which foods you’re allergic to. But if you or your child have food allergies and aren’t sure which foods are to blame, allergy testing can help you identify them.

First, we will ask you questions about what you think you’re allergic to and your symptoms. Sometimes that’s enough to identify the problem food, or he may suggest allergy testing.

Allergy testing can help us figure out what you’re allergic to, but it’s not foolproof. After your tests are done, you’ll need to work with your us to get the right diagnosis.

Skin Testing or Skin Prick Test

Skin testing is the most common and quickest food allergy test. We can test you for several foods at the same time.

First, we put a very small drop of liquid containing the food on your skin and pricks it. Then we watch for a reaction – a small bump that may get red like a mosquito bite.

If your skin reacts, you’re likely allergic to that food. You’ll want to avoid it and we can talk with you about other treatment options. If you don’t react, good news! You’re probably not allergic to that food.

Elimination Diet

This method for figuring out possible food allergy takes time — several weeks. It’s not a good idea for people who have had severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. If you have, it is important for you to find out your trigger food as soon as possible so you can avoid it.

How does the elimination diet work?

The most common types of elimination diet involves removing specific foods or ingredients from your diet because you and us think they may be causing allergy symptoms. Common allergy-causing foods include milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, and soy. We will supervise this diet over a few weeks. There are usually several steps to this diet.

1. Stop eating suspicious foods.

During this time, you will need to:

  • Carefully read food labels and ask how foods are prepared at restaurants so you can be sure to avoid possible triggers.
  • Keep a food diary to record the foods you are eating.

If you remove a certain food and the allergy symptoms go away while following this diet, we can usually confirm that that food may be the cause of your problems.

While on this diet, make sure you eat other foods that provide the same nutrients as those you’re avoiding. (For example, try tofu-based foods instead of dairy products.) A dietitian can help you plan meals.

2. Slowly add back in suspicious foods, one at a time.

After eliminating or taking foods out of your diet, we will ask you to gradually reintroduce into your diet the foods you were avoiding. You’ll add them one at a time over time. This process helps link allergy symptoms to specific foods.

Carefully record any allergy symptoms that you get as you add each food back in. If symptoms return after eating a food, we can usually confirm that this is a trigger.

3. Last, you will be asked to once again to stop eating the foods (one at a time) that you and us think are causing your allergy symptoms.

The list should be smaller this time. The goal is to see if the symptoms clear up for good.

The elimination diet is not a sure thing. Other factors can affect the results. For example, if you think you’re sensitive to a food, you could have a response to it, but it may not be a true allergy.

Before making big changes in your diet, always talk to us. If you randomly remove foods from your diet, you may not have a balanced diet — and that can cause other health problems. You may also become frustrated because it may seem that everything you eat is causing a reaction.

Make an appointment today! Call us at (954) 450-3550