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Siblings of children with food allergies may be food sensitive and not necessarily allergic

Posted:  Monday, November 09, 2015

Generally, siblings of children with food allergies are said to be prone to food allergies as well. However, this may not always be true! Emerging research has found that most siblings of children with food allergies had food sensitivity and only a small proportion had actual food allergy.

Presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, the study involved 1,120 children who had siblings with documented food allergy. Approximately 53% of the children were found to have food sensitivity and not food allergy.

Only 13% of them were found to have actual food allergy, determined through clinical history evaluation for allergic response to food, specific IgE blood test and the skin prick test. The reactions to food that were assessed included vomiting or stomach cramps, hives, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat, dizziness or feeling faint.

Further, the study also suggests that if allergic reactions have not yet occurred, testing for food allergies can yield false-positives. The researchers recommend that food allergy testing must be avoided to reduce the likelihood of negative consequences of a potential misdiagnosis.

On a concluding note, allergist Matthew Greenhawt, MD, MBA, MSc, ACAAI fellow, and study co-author said, “The risk of food allergy in one sibling, based on the presence of food allergy in another, has never been completely clear. This perceived risk is a common reason to seek 'screening' before introducing a high-risk allergen to siblings. But screening a child before introducing a high-risk allergen isn't recommended. Food allergy tests perform poorly in terms of being able to predict future risk in someone who has never eaten the food before. Our study showed that testing should be limited in order to help confirm a diagnosis, rather than as a sole predictor to make a diagnosis."

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