Babies and children * Young people * Healthy living * Allergies and hay fever

Warning over alternative allergy testing kits

Warning over alternative allergy testing kits Wrong diagnosis can lead to greater health problems

Parents with children suffering from allergic reactions to food often turn to 'alternative' testing kits sold via the Internet in the hope that they can discover the root cause of their child's condition.

But now NICE, the UK watchdog that advises on which treatments should be used by the NHS, has issued a strong warning that these complementary therapies have no scientific basis and are in effect useless.

Food allergies are amongst the most common of all allergies, with as many as 1 in 20 children suffering from an adverse reaction to one or more foods. These can often be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions. Foods that often cause allergic reactions include: cow's milk; fish and shellfish; hen's eggs; peanuts, tree nuts and sesame; soy; wheat and kiwi fruit.

Some parents may feel that they are not receiving enough support from their GP and this can lead them to try out testing kits based on so-called 'alternative' therapies such as hair analysis and Vega testing. These are often sold via websites that look professional and provide plausible reasons for their effectiveness.

But as one of the study authors, Dr Adam Fox, explains, these therapies can in fact lead to greater problems: "Many parents often turn to alternative methods to help diagnose their child, but there is currently little evidence base for these approaches, and parents often end up putting their children on very extensive restriction diets following the inaccurate diagnosis, which can leave them malnourished, as well as wasting time and money."

The report also points out that as many as 20% of self-diagnosis of food allergy are wrong.

Instead of turning to these products, NICE has produced a set of 'best practice' guidelines for health care professionals to use when assessing a child with suspected food allergy.

Proven testing methods, such as skin prick and blood tests should be used along with a detailed history of the child's symptoms.

This article was published on Wed 23 February 2011

Image © Mike Drayton -

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