Nearly one-third of parent-reported childhood food allergies have not been diagnosed by a physician. A new study, published in theJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,found that parents frequently reported food allergies that could not be substantiated by their child’s doctor.

The study involved an analysis of survey data from U.S. households with children, collected between June 2009 and February 2010. Lead researcher Ruchi S. Gupta, M.D., M.P.H., of the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, explained that the study aimed to describe parent reports of physician practices in pediatric food allergy diagnosis.

Various Methods Used to Diagnose Allergies

The surveyed families had a total of 38,480. Of these, parents reported that 2,355 children had 3,218 food allergies. Just over 70 percent of these had been formally diagnosed by a physician. Of the formally diagnosed food allergies, 32.6% were not assessed with any form of diagnostic testing. 47.3% were assessed with a skin prick test, 39.9% with a serum specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) test, and 20.2% by an oral food challenge. The researchers found that severe food allergies were more likely to be diagnosed by a physician and assessed with diagnostic tests when compared with mild food allergies.

The researchers concluded: “The majority of reported food allergy is diagnosed by a physician and is associated with some form of testing. However, 30 percent of parent-reported food allergy in this study was not diagnosed by a physician. True food allergy that goes undiagnosed or diagnosed food allergy that is not appropriately substantiated places children at increased risk for poor outcomes.”

Has your child’s food allergy been formally diagnosed by his or her doctor?

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