Beware of Bogus Allergy Tests

The UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) produced guidelines for allergy testing in children, what follows are excerpts from their press release :

“Children are being placed on restrictive and potentially dangerous diets as parents look to the internet and the high street for alternative tests to diagnose food allergy, NICE warns. NICE has issued the first ever national guideline on food allergy in children which advises against the use of alternative tests, such as Vega testing, hair analysis and kinesiology.

The use of these alternative tests is on the increase because of a lack of allergy services on the NHS and difficulties with diagnosing the condition in primary care. But there is very little evidence to support the use of these unscientific tests, some of which can retail for £60 or more. It is estimated that of those children who report an allergy, 20 per cent wrongly self-report diagnoses of various food allergies and do not eat certain foods because they think they are allergic to them.

NICE recommends that GPs, practice nurses and health visitors diagnose and assess a suspected food allergy, commonly an allergy to cow’s milk, fish and shellfish or peanuts, using either skin prick testing or by taking a blood test for IgE antibodies.

This decision should be based on the results of the allergy-focused clinical history and whether the test is suitable, safe and acceptable to the child.

Dr Adam Fox, Consultant in Paediatric Allergy at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital in London who was involved in the development of the NICE guideline, said: “These are the only two scientifically proven tests that should be carried out to diagnose food allergy, and they should be validated alongside a full clinical history.

“It is very frustrating when you see a patient who has had a bad deal. Parents often think that these alternative tests offer a quick fix but many children often end up on restrictive diets.”.

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