Allergy Misdiagnosis: A Very Real Risk

So you have a food allergy. Or at least, that's what you think. But did you know that food allergy misdiagnosis is an extremely common occurrence today?  Unfortunately, misdiagnosis possibilities can create confusion when deciding what you can, and cannot, safely eat.

Allergy Misdiagnosis: A Growing Problem

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people with food allergies has been on the rise in the past several years, and this is particularly true among children.  But some researchers believe that it's not really that more people are becoming allergic to the foods they eat, but rather that the diagnostic tests being used are inadvertently flagging patients who aren't actually at risk for a serious reaction.

When Allergy Misdiagnosis Happens

If you wonder what could be causing such food allergy misdiagnosis, it's likely that the criteria used to classify for this condition is just too sensitive, causing people who aren't allergic to show up as though they are.

Under-Diagnosis is also Common

And while over diagnoses of food allergies is a serious concern, under diagnosis is also a common problem. In fact, in 2007, the Annals of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology published an article that called attention to this problem of allergy misdiagnosis at both ends of the diagnosis spectrum. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Children's Center found that the blood tests used to classify this condition fall short of the mark because they don't provide an accurate picture of how the immune system truly reacts to triggers. The same problem exists with skin prick tests, which also may be over-sensitive.

High-Risk Groups

It's also interesting to note that some scientists believe that patients with eczema are at particularly high risk to be misdiagnosed with food allergies. In addition, patients with a family history of food allergies are very susceptible to misdiagnosis because they could be disproportionately flagged for testing since the condition can be hereditary. However, the problem of misdiagnosis isn't limited to these specific groups. 

Further, the danger with food allergy misdiagnosis is that children and adults may eliminate important nutrients from their diet unnecessarily. This lack of certain food groups can put them at risk for other health problems. Or, on the flip side, they may eat something that can put them at risk to get seriously sick.

Consider the Entire Picture

What this means for you is that if you suspect you could have food allergies, it's important that your doctor look beyond basic allergy blood and skin prick tests to consider all of your symptoms and reactions before diagnosing this condition. In addition, if there's any chance that you could be allergic to a certain food, your doctor will probably want you to try it in a controlled setting until he's sure it's safe for you.


National Jewish Health

Pediatric Allergy and Immunology

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