Food allergies are a serious matter that can result in a life-threatening situation if not handled properly. However, a misdiagnosed food allergy, especially in children, can result in an unnecessary stigma, isolation and even a paralyzing fear. Furthermore, from a nutritional standpoint, avoidance of foods thought to be allergens can translate into a lack of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a child’s diet.
While blood tests might be slightly more telling, allergen-specific antibodies can be low in people who are actually allergic to the foods being tested. In this case, actual allergies might not be accurately identified.
Many pediatricians and general practitioners are not aware of these discrepancies and continue to rely of these tests to diagnose food allergies. Therefore, it is important to consult with an allergy specialist who can make a correct diagnosis.
The Cost of Inaccuracy
Not to downplay the severity of a legitimate food allergy, but a misdiagnosis can be quite a costly mistake. Not only do children diagnosed with food allergies quickly accrue medical expenses, but studies have also shown a decline in overall productivity of the parents, thus resulting in a loss of income.
Emotionally and socially, the cost is high as well. Children diagnosed with food allergies wear a label that cuts them out of eating many of the “treats” that their classmates freely enjoy. Furthermore, parents and children alike live in paranoia of accidentally coming into contact with a trigger through cross-contamination. This produces heightened stress and anxiety among the entire family. Siblings may become embittered if a family is restricted by activities and dining options in order to product the allergic child.
Consult with an allergy specialist when identification or clarification of specific allergic triggers is needed, when detailed counseling regarding environmental control measures is needed, when quality of life is significantly impaired, or when immunotherapy may be a consideration.
An Appropriate Reaction
While promising research is being conducted on several forms of more accurate testing measures, these tests remain costly, time-consuming and inaccessible to a large number of the population.
Numerous studies have shown that introducing small amounts of common allergens to children over time can produce a positive immune response as it helps them develop a tolerance to these specific foods. This is best accomplished by providing a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods at a young age and allowing children to run and play in an environment that is not hyper-sterilized, in other words, allowing kids to simply be kids.
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Please remember, this content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.