Children often wrongly diagnosed with food allergiesGovernment to set GP allergy testing guidelines
With all the media coverage about food allergies, it is tempting to diagnose your child's reaction to a specific food using a home testing kit. Alas, often the diagnosis proves to be incorrect, which means the child might be placed on a diet that lacks key foods.
To tackle this growing problem, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is issuing guidance to GPs to help them diagnose food allergies in children.
Food allergies have indeed become more common, and hospital admissions have soared by 500 per cent in the last two decades. However, when NICE looked at the evidence, it found that mis-diagnosis is common, with only one in five of those who think they have an allergy actually do.
Widespread misunderstanding of what a food allergy involves actually endangers those who are affected. For instance, children are often allergic to cow's milk, fish, eggs or wheat - an incorrect diagnosis could mean your child could be deprived of key nutrients.
Under the upcoming NICE guidelines, a food allergy should be considered by the GP if the symptoms include:
- Skin conditions such as eczema or itchy rash
- Respiratory complaints such as sneezing or shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, difficulty swallowing or constipation
- Anaphylaxis (severe, hyper-sensitive reaction) and other allergic reactions
In the event of a suspected allergy, the guidelines say the GPs should consider the patient's medical history and order tests, which may include blood samples. Alternative methods, such as hair analysis and acupuncture should not be used, NICE said.
“Food allergies in children are becoming more common, therefore it is important that there are appropriate, evidence-based approaches in treating those with this condition. Many of the symptoms are common to other conditions, so it’s not always easy to identify and diagnose food allergy correctly,” said Dr Judith Richardson, Associate Director at the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE.
This article was published on Tue 10 August 2010
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