Confusing Allergies (Again!)

By Heather Legg

As has been said so many times before, food allergy diagnosis is really a complicated and confusing issue. Not only is the diagnosis itself confusing, but so is what you are supposed to do next, and also what everyone is supposed to do.

According to a recent article on npr.org the nation’s top allergy experts just looked at some of the new proposed guidelines that are “intended to clear up confusion about the diagnosis and treatment of food allergies. And there’s a lot of confusion out there.”

For one thing, banishment of an allergy causing food doesn’t always make sense. Well, it does make sense to those allergic to the one thing, like peanuts, maybe, but what about all the other food allergies out there. I knew a woman allergic to avocados. You never hear of a ban on avocados and a peanut ban certainly won’t help her. And how far does the ban go? Schools? Airplanes? Stadiums? Yes, it’s good for those with allergies to feel as safe as they can, but nobody can ban everywhere, what about work? Malls? Grocery stores? Movie theaters?

Another issue, one that has me quite intrigues, is the falsity of some tests for allergies. This same article states that, “the common tests doctors perform when they suspect a food allergy aren’t definitive.Those skin prick tests and blood tests can tell you if your body is developing antibodies to a particular food, but not whether you’ll have symptoms. The real test is the food challenge. That’s where a doctor observes a person eating the food and watches for reactions. In the case of a true food allergy, those might include tingling of the face, hives and swelling.

“A couple of years ago, researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver conducted ‘food challenge’ tests on 125 children with allergies and eczema and found that more than 50 percent of the kids could actually tolerate foods they were told to avoid,  NPR”s Alison Aubrey reports.

It is a very small fraction of those allergic that are so severe in their allergy that being near the food or smelling it will cause a reaction. Again, though, for that small percent, it is imperative that they avoid. And when avoidance is questionable, make sure that precautions are taken, like antihistamine and Epipen availability.

It’s always confusing and the lack of a definitive allergy answer makes a worrisome condition even more worrisome. Whether it is reaction to reaction or some reactions disappearing and others coming, it is something that has to be dealt with in an individual manner, and that goes from every aspect from testing to treatment to daily choices. The best we can do is do what we think is best.

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