According to a recent study, too few doctors rely on oral food challenges to diagnose food allergies, instead administering blood tests that may be both more expensive and less accurate, as explained byEveryday Health.
When used to diagnose suspected food allergies, an oral food challenge involves the consumption of the suspect food, under close medical supervision and in a highly controlled environment in order to rule out other potential causes of the reaction. The person is considered to be allergic if they experience a reaction after eating the food.
The study involved a survey of about 40,000 children. The children’s parents identified 3,339 cases of food allergies. However, less than two thirds of these had been formally diagnosed, and only about 15 percent of the kids had undergone a food challenge.
The researchers found that children whose food allergies caused severe or life-threatening allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, breathing difficulties, and low blood pressure were more likely to have an allergy that was formally diagnosed by a doctor. Yet the finding that many other children had undiagnosed food allergies and were not given a food challenge suggests that food allergies may be undiagnosed.
Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital spoke of the importance of oral food challenges, saying that the method “provides a definitive diagnosis which is critical to providing proper disease management and prevents unnecessary avoidance of certain foods. Speculating on why many children with suspected food allergies do not undergo such a test, he said “Physicians may not be conducting the test due to the length of time it takes, three to six hours, and the low reimbursement for a food challenge.”