I was told that my daughter had a milk allergy as an infant. Now a toddler, she's since "grown out of it," but I've never been completely convinced that she was ever really allergic to dairy. For one, the skin prick test came up negative for milk or casein.
But her doctor said she still probably had a sensitivity to it.
How could she know that for sure, especially if the test said just the opposite? Do you withhold an entire food group from a child based on an educated guess?
Turns out even a positive allergy test is not all it's cracked up to be, according to a recent article in the LA Times. And blood tests -- the type most non-specialist primary care MDs use -- are often incorrect or the doctor reads them wrong.
The most accurate way to tell a true allergy is through a food challenge. This is where patients consume controlled and increasing doses of a suspected food under careful supervision. My doctor never did that with my daughter.
While food allergies and intolerances do appear to be on the rise (18 percent in children over the last decade), so do the number of people (or kids) who erroneously think they have them. Studies indicate that only 25 percent of people (or kids) supsected of having a food allergy actually have one.
Take one recent study of 125 children, average age 4, diagnosed with 60 food allergies. They went through a series of food challenges, including milk, peanuts, eggs and soy.
About 90 percent of the suspected allergies were negative.
At the end of the study, the researchers were able to reintroduce at least four and as many as 20 foods into each child's diet.
The moral of this story: Make sure your child's doctor knows how to read allergy tests. Better yet, ask for a food challenge to make sure you're not needlessly eliminating a food your child loves.
CafeMom has several groups to tap for food allergy info and discussion:
How were your child's food allergies diagnosed? Did the doctor use a skin prick, blood test, or food challenge? Are you still skeptical?