Food Allergies in Children May Be Underdiagnosed

Physicians are not using oral food challenges frequently enough to diagnose allergies in children, according to a new study.

Physicians are not using oral food challenges frequently enough to diagnose allergies in children, according to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting in Boston earlier this month.

For the study, 40,104 children were surveyed, and 3,339 food allergy cases were identified, only 61.5% of which had received a formal physician diagnosis. Of those who received a physician diagnosis, approximately 15% underwent an oral food challenge. Severe symptoms such as anaphylaxis, wheezing, breathing trouble, and low blood pressure were more frequently diagnosed by a physician and more frequently confirmed by oral food challenge.

The researchers conclude that food allergies in children may be underdiagnosed in the US and recommend that patients see an allergist when a food allergy is suspected. “Oral food challenge provides a definitive diagnosis, which is critical to providing proper disease management and prevent unnecessary avoidance of certain foods,” said Ruchi Gupta, MD, of Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago, in a press release. “Physicians may not be conducting the test due to the length of time it takes, 3-6 hours, and the low reimbursement for a food challenge.”