Yesterday the Today Show featured a segment on food allergies and the New York Times ran a story on the same topic. In a nut shell (ha ha), the story focuses on false positives that come from the skin and blood testing done to diagnose food allergies. I have mixed feelings about this story. Yes, false positives are possible. In the years that we have been going in for testing we have had false positives for rice, soy and strawberries BUT the allergist (and we have seen several) always goes back to the history, "Has your child reacted to this food in the past?" I have even had an allergist say "Reaction trumps testing."
I realize there may be bad allergists out there and for those out there seeing their pediatrician to diagnose their child's allergies I say go see an allergist, preferably one who has experience and knowledge diagnosing food allergies. BUT for the most part, the parents and children I know get diagnosed as the result of a previous reaction, generally a scary one.
A few months ago Max's school sponsored a presentation by FAAN regarding food allergies. Toward the end of the discussion period one parent spoke up about how her child had been misdiagnosed as having multiple food allergies and they had to avoid all these different foods. She was angry and very verbal about her situation. If I was her I would have been angry too. She obviously got a doctor who didn't know what they were doing if they did not take her child's history into account. I spoke up and talked about Owen's diagnoses and how though he had a low positive on testing, an oral challenge resulted in him receiving epinephrine. I could have also talked about Max and his peanut challenge last summer. I spoke up at that time because I didn't want people walking out of that presentation thinking that testing results in a lot of misdiagnoses.
The Today Show did emphasize that people do have food allergies. They are real. And if a food allergy is suspected food challenges should only be done with the supervision of a doctor. But I can't help feeling that a back lash has begun. At the end Matt Lauer said this information could be very freeing for some families. What he didn't say is that when it comes to dealing with family and friends this story could make things more difficult. Can't you just see Auntie Betsy saying "Oh, let's just give him a little bit of peanut butter (cheese, bread, pecan, insert your allergen here) and see what happens."?