If you suspect your child may be allergic to a particular food and are thinking about getting him tested, a food allergy panel administered by your pediatrician is probably not the way to go. Because according to new research, while allergists believe children should be tested for sensitization to allergens one at a time, and only if there's strong evidence of a true food allergy, panel tests check for sensitization to several different allergens at once, quite often leading to overdiagnosis.
For the study, researchersat Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio analyzed a year's worth of data on food allergy testing, and found that panel tests accounted for 45 percent of the food allergy tests ordered by primary care doctors, but only 1.2 percent of allergists' orders. That's a pretty major difference!
"These panels are marketed as convenient tools for physicians to obtain information about their patients regarding multiple allergens all at once," study author Dr. David Stukus told Reuters Health. "However, there are rare if any instances where the use of such panels would offer any useful information for patients."
That's because most doctors and patients don't know how to correctly interpret food sensitization tests, Dr. Stukus said, which often leads to children being misdiagnosed with food allergies and put on unnecessarily restricted diets with potentially harmful side effects like stunted growth and an increased likelihood of developing a true allergy later in life.
"This is where true harm is coming from," Dr. Stutkus explained. "That's what scares me as an allergist."
Bottom line: If you suspect your child has a serious food allergy, tell your doctor you prefer the one-at-a-time test instead of the panel test. And if your child has been diagnosed with food allergies via the panel test, you may want to get a second opinion from an allergist using the one-at-a-time method.