Food allergy panel testing can lead to the misdiagnosis of a food allergy, according to researchers at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

“History and physical examination remain the cornerstones of food allergy diagnosis,” said the Dallas researchers.

Panel Testing and Diagnosis

Panel tests for food allergies indicated the presence of IgE antibodies to specific food proteins, but the presence of IgE antibodies may or may not indicate a child is allergic to the food.

For instance, a peanut allergy diagnosis requires two things: the presence of peanut-specific IgE antibodies and a history of a reaction to peanuts. The presence of the peanut-specific antibodies without allergic symptoms indicates a sensitivity to peanuts. Many sensitized people do not experience allergy symptoms.

While panel testing is an excellent tool for the confirmation of a food allergy, using it inappropriately may cause individuals to avoid foods they are not allergic to. In the Dallas study, just 2.2 percent of food allergies were accurately predicted by food panels given to children with no history of allergy symptoms.

This means if your child has never eaten a peanut and has no history of allergy symptoms, a panel test could indicate a peanut allergy.

Preventing Allergy Misdiagnosis

The consequences of a misdiagnosis, according to the researchers, are individuals avoiding foods that provide valuable nutrition and families unnecessarily living with the anxiety caused by a food allergy diagnosis. It is also a wasteful use of financial resources.

With both medical costs and the incidence of food allergies on the rise, a cost-effective and accurate patient assessment is important.

“Key features of the patient’s history guide the diagnostic work-up. These important factors include the amount of the time between ingestion and symptom development, the organ system(s) affected, and reproducibility of symptoms with subsequent ingestion,” write the study’s authors.

“Careful diagnostic work-up and consultation can ensure correct identification and treatment of children with food allergy and can prevent dietary restrictions and unnecessary testing in those without food allergy.”

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