Do you really have a food allergy?

Food allergies must undeniably be taken seriously, since mere contact with the food in question can prove deadly for some individuals. However, it seems that many adults mistakenly think they suffer from a food allergy.

Food allergies must undeniably be taken seriously, since mere contact with the food in question can prove deadly for some individuals. However, it seems that many adults mistakenly think they suffer from a food allergy.

According to a recent report compiled for the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the problem mainly stems from misdiagnosis and overreliance on two tests — a skin-prick test and a blood test for antibodies. And yet, according to this team of experts, when people have antibodies to a particular substance in food, it does not necessarily mean that they would have an allergic reaction when exposed to that food. As for skin-prick tests, they can remain positive long after an allergy is gone.

The only test that can conclusively identify a food allergy is an oral challenge, which involves having the patient ingest the suspected food under medical supervision. But in challenges where the doctor and the patient do not know whether the patient is being given the suspected food or a placebo, only about a third of the foods have been found to trigger an allergic reaction. However, doctors are understandably reluctant to try an oral challenge.

Sometimes a diagnosis is based solely on a patient’s or parent’s report. This can lead to some confusion between an allergy and a food intolerance, which is characterized by an adverse reaction after ingesting a given food, but without the immune system being involved.

According to this panel of experts, many children outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, soy and wheat, but it’s important not to re-expose them to the food before ruling out an allergy. There is no treatment for a food allergy other than to avoid the food that triggers the reaction.

We mustn’t minimize the impact of food allergies, as anaphylactic shock can prove deadly within minutes. This is why, in cases of a confirmed allergy, it is important to get informed and to respect the recommendations made by healthcare professionals in order to avoid an allergic reaction. However, new data suggests that many children and adults think they have a food allergy when in fact they don’t… which is why it’s important to consult your family doctor on this matter.

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