News of World Medicine

Pediatric Food Allergies Often Not Treated Properly

American children with food allergies should be receiving better care, including diagnostic testing and attention to severe allergic reaction symptoms, according to a study conducted by researchers at Northwestern Medicine. 

Ruchi Gupta, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, as well as a physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, explained: "Every child with a food allergy should be diagnosed by a physician, have access to life-saving medication such as an epinephrine autoinjector and receive confirmation of the disease through diagnostic testing. Not all children are receiving this kind of care." 

The trial, which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the official journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, involved data from an online survey taken by U.S households with children suffering from symptoms indicating mild-to-severe food allergies. 

The study is the first to provide information about how children's food allergies are usually diagnosed and the treatment options they are given to manage their conditions. 

The researchers concluded that 70% of the people who answered the survey reported that their child was diagnosed by a doctor regarding their food allergies. Of these children who were diagnosed by their physician, 32% never had diagnostic testing, including skin, oral food challenge tests, or blood tests. 

For those who were given diagnostic testing, skin tests were reported as most common, with 46% having received these tests. 39% reported to have received a blood test.

They also found that minority and lower income households had a higher chance of having children who had food allergies, but were not diagnosed. 

A mere one out of five parents involved in the study said that their child took part in an oral food challege test, which is the most efficient testing method for diagnosing food allergies.

Gupta commented:"An oral food challenge might be scary for parents because their child is being fed the allergenic food. Some physicians think the risks outweigh the benefits, but it is the best tool we have to diagnose a food allergy."

The nine most common food allergies among kids are: Children were found to often suffer from cutaneous symptoms, i.e., hives, puffy eyes or lips, and eczema for 80% of anaphylactic reactions caused by these foods. 

Interestingly, hives only occured in 40% of life threatening or severe cases, while eyes or lips only became swollen 34% of the time. This could potentially be extremely dangerous, because if no symptoms are occurring, parents may not know something is wrong. 

Gupta explained:"Not all food allergy reactions start with swelling or a rash. If you suspect your child has eaten something they're allergic to and you don't see a visible sign of reaction, you need to think about what might be going on internally."

According to the experts, if your child has eaten a food you believe they are allergic to, the following questions should be asked: 
"Are you having a hard time breathing?""Do you feel dizzy?""Does your stomach hurt?""Does your throat feel tight?"
Mary Jane Marchisotto, executive director of the of the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI), concluded: "This study shows why its vital that children receive an accurate diagnosis, and that parents and other caregivers know the signs of a severe reaction and are equipped to respond immediately. We urge families to visit where they will find the information and tools they need to understand and cope with food allergies."


Written by Christine Kearney Copyright: Medical News Today