A new tool developed by researchers from University College Cork may be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to diagnosing your child's food allergies.

New Way to Diagnose Food Allergies in Children

The Irish scientists have created a special "calculator" that allows you to input some important data to instantly identify if your child has an allergy to milk, eggs, and peanuts, which are three of the most common food allergies in kids.

Identifying Kids' Food Allergies

According to a study published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology in March of 2011, the calculator relies on information on things known to correlate with food allergies to run allergen-specific algorithms to determine whether an allergy exists to each of the three main types of food allergy triggers. The data used includes the patient's age, sex, skin prick test results, IgE blood levels for different allergens, and past history of allergic reactions.

The Benefits

This avoids the need for children to undergo an oral food challenge, which up to now has been the best diagnostic method available, but also poses serious risk for highly-allergic patients and can also be stressful and time-consuming for participants. The calculator's results are 96 percent accurate compared with other common methods of diagnosing food allergies, which are right only between 61 to 81 percent of the time, according to the researchers. It can also be much more cost-effective than other diagnostic methods.

An added benefit is that doctors may also be able to use the calculator's results to determine the best course of action in dealing with each patient's specific food allergy.

A commercial version of this calculator will be released later this year so more children can benefit from its effectiveness.

What This Means For You

If you have a child whom you suspect could have food allergies, it's important to talk to her allergist about this new tool and find out when it will be available in your area. While the Cork scientists focused their research efforts on young children with an average age of about 7 years old, you can also ask the doctor about whether this calculator may also be appropriate to use in the future with younger and older children and adults as well.

Prevent Food Allergies in Children

Remember that food allergies in people of all ages can be quite serious or even life-threatening. Therefore, it's important to know what foods and drinks could trigger an attack and take the appropriate steps to head off any problems well in advance. It's also essential to make sure your child has access to injectable epinephrine at all times in case a food allergy does occur.


L.M. Segal, J.O.B. Hourihane, A. Clarke, R. Alizadehfar, J. Lucas, G. Roberts, M. Lajeunesse, A. DunnGalvin. "A Systematic Evaluation of the Cork-Southampton Food Challenge Outcome Calculator in a Canadian Sample." Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2011): 127. Web. 18 April 2011.

"Predicting Food Allergies." News@ucc. University College Cork, Ireland, 3 March 2011. Web. 20, April 2011.