Even without a clinical history of allergic symptoms, parents and pediatricians may have a child undergo a food-specific IgE panel (blood test). But according to a recent study from researchers at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas published in the January edition of The Journal of Pediatrics, these tests often result in over-diagnosis or misdiagnosis of food allergy.
According to the study, the reason for this over-diagnosis or misdiagnosis is that the panel test checks for the presence of IgE antibodies, but the presence of antibodies does not necessarily mean that the child would have an allergic reaction to the food.
The study found that panel testing prior to food introduction was only able to correctly predict true food allergies in 2.2 percent of cases. According to the study’s authors, inaccurate testing and subsequent recommendations from the provider can have considerable consequences to patients and families, such as:
- nutritional deficiency as a result of unnecessary food avoidance,
- impact on quality of life and increase in anxiety from perceived food allergy, and
- increased costs incurred by families and economic burden on the health care system.
“Allergy testing plays an important role in the confirmation of food allergy, but has dangerous pitfalls if used inappropriately,” said the authors. The gold standard for food allergy diagnosis remains the supervised oral food challenge, based on a clinical history of symptoms.
If you have questions about testing and diagnosis of your or child’s allergies, discuss them with your allergist at your next visit. You can learn more about proven and unproven methods for food allergy testing on our website.