Misdiagnosed Food Allergies In Kids

February 3, 2009

Photo: EuroMagic

I was getting ready this morning and half listening to the Today Show when I heard the discussion of misdiagnosed food allergies in children. My niece and nephews (as well as their parents!) have been put through the food allergy wringer, so I put my mascara down and listened. I've always wondered why so many children these days seem to have a litany of allergies. The Center for Disease Control says food allergies in children has increased 18% in the last decade.

So what is going on?

Part of the blame is on misdiagnosis, which doctors now say is on the rise. According to New York Times online article Telling Food Allergies From False Alarms, "the culprit appears to be the widespread use of simple blood tests for antibodies that could signal a reaction to food. The tests have emerged as a quick, convenient alternative to uncomfortable skin testing and time-consuming “food challenge” tests, which measure a child’s reaction to eating certain foods under a doctor’s supervision." And, while blood tests can point out potentially risky foods they can often result in false positives, and the body's immune response can be both over- and underestimated.

Blood tests can also be unreliable because they can't distinguish between similar food proteins. For example, if a child is allergic to peanuts they may also get a positive result for beans such as soy, green beans, kidney beans and peas. Likewise for a milk allergy - they may have a positive result to beef. In fact, according to a study by Pediatrics in 2003 a "positive result on a blood allergy test correlated with a real-world food allergy in fewer than half the cases."

Dr. David Fleischer, an assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health says a crucial question to ask when diagnosing food allergies is whether the child has tolerated the food in the past, and that “The only true test of whether you’re allergic to a food or not is whether you can eat it and not react to it.”

Many serious allergies are obvious, but according to the article, "parents given a positive blood test result should seek advice from an experienced allergist who performs medically supervised food challenge testing. Even when a food allergy has been confirmed, parents should have children retested, because many allergies are outgrown, particularly in the cases of milk, eggs, soy and wheat."

I say that's good food for thought.



Greg Bulmash's picture

We discovered our son's egg allergy when he reacted to a flu shot as a baby. The virus for flu vaccines is incubated in eggs and there was egg protein in the vaccine. This was confirmed by scratch test with an allergist.

The allergist said he *could* grow out of it by 3, more likely by 5. He turns 4 this month. We retested him at 3. Not sure if we'll retest this year or wait until 5. We'll probably wait. We were told that the less exposure the child has to an allergen, the more likely they are to outgrow the allergy.

Sheri Wetherell's picture

Greg, I hope he does outgrow it! As a child I was allergic to cow's milk but fortunately outgrew that, so you never know. My friend's kid also outgrew her wheat allergy, which was fairly severe. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you! :)

maris's picture

Very scary stuff. Knock on wood, I don't have any food allergies but I can't imagine how it would change my life if I did.

Thumbbook's picture

I can remember growing up thinking allergies were only caused by pollens, or dust.My son at 2yo was diagnosed as allergic to peanuts. He's now 9, and fortunately he outgrew it. His love for peanutbutter was greater than his allergies.

Barbecue recipe | Low Carb Recipe's picture

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barb's picture

Isn't it interesting that the eggs in vaccines topic comes up if your child already has an egg allergy. But the egg protein in the vaccine can be the initial exposure to egg protein that causes the food allergy! The rise in food allergies can be explained. It increased when the recommended number of vaccines was increased about 5-6 years ago.

Children received:
1960 – 1-2 vaccines
1980 - 8-9 vaccines
1990 - 10 vaccines
2000 - 33 vaccinations
2007 - 48 doses of 14 vaccines by age 6

Vaccines contain an adjuvant that increases the body’s immune response to the protein in the vaccine. Something that the public and most physicians don’t realize is that the adjuvant can contain a trace of food protein. This is a protected trade secret and does not have to appear on the package insert. Soy, sesame, peanut, wheat germ, corn, shellfish, and fish oils are listed as ingredients in the patents. It has been known since 1839 that injections can cause food allergies.

Lisa Caran's picture

I have been reading up on Genetically Modified (GM) and genetically engineered (GE) foods. Lab tests disclose that eating genetically engineered foods causes many different allergic responses, mostly in children. And this is just the tip of the ice berg. The bad health effects from eating GE and GM foods will not be traceable because the range of symptoms is, well, everything, and 60 to 70 percent of the foods in the stores are GM. Therefore, since the sypltoms will not be traceable to the food supply, this food is VERY dangerous! IF it is not traceable, we will never be able to correct the situation. The labeling standards have been non-existant for GM foods and there is plenty of corruption between big-biotech and the USDA and the FDA.Please read up on the books by Jefferey Smith and visit organicconsumers-dot-org and get in touch with your elected officials and call upon them to strengthen organic labling standards, support organinc farms and reign-in these bio-tech companies who want to own and patent all of life! They are: Monsanto, Sygenta, Bayer Crop Sceince, Cargill and others.
Switch to organic NOW before your intestines start producing pesticides!

Sheri Wetherell's picture

Thanks, Lisa. I absolutely agree! Go organic - it tastes better too :)

Dawna Roberts's picture

I heard about this from a friend. My Daughter 14 has a lot of anxiety about her fish allergies. Going out to eat is a challenge and travel is too. I really hope her tests are false positive!! I will ask about the challenges, with my allergist. She out grew the shellfish ( go figure, more common) but still high on salmon and trout. So maybe and maybe she just isnt allergic???? to any of it, which would have caused lots of worry and $ for not.