author of Feeding Eden

Danger, Will Robinson!

When it comes to food allergies, it often feels like the media is just catching up to life with my son. In “Telling Food Allergies From False Alarms” Tara Parker-Pope describes the inaccuracies around the popular method of testing for food allergies - Blood Tests , the only “convenient alternative to uncomfortable skin testing and time consuming ‘food challenge’ tests.”

The article explains why sometimes children who do have real food allergies can be over diagnosed by inaccurate blood tests. Despite my experience with a son who was under diagnosed by a stubborn pediatrician six years ago (2003 was the relative Dark Ages of food allergies) the severity of his allergies can wiggle within the approximations of his blood allergy tests. For example, his blood tests predicate life-threatening reactions to soybean, sesame seeds and most likely sunflower seeds. But while he safely eat a sunflower spread called Sunbutter, one mistaken sip of his sister’s soy milk last month sent me running for the Benadryl to stop his mouth from “Buzzing all over!” Worse still, we don’t have the ability to accurately test for another kinds of allergies (other than life-threatening reaction) through blood. Many children suffer from severe G.I. related allergic reactions that are currently immeasurable by blood test.

So I am left wanting by Tara Parker-Pope's conclusion.  The lame warning for parents who "think they need allergy testing, [to] be extremely measured and go to reputable people” isn’t terribly helpful. Hmmm…I have an idea! How about we continue to research a more effective way to test for allergies so children aren’t put on over-restrictive dietary regimes or conversely asked to sit for hours in a hospital room eating incremented bites of a waffle that may, or may not, make them throw up?

There is another article on same newspaper page about colon cancer testing. That author suggests we use better colon cancer detection tests from other countries. Why doesn’t Tara Pope’s article end with a similar call to action? If we need to fund and research better allergy blood tests then let’s do that. Parent of children with health issues need the resources to help them make crucial choices. They don’t want to be left flapping robotically their arms like Robot from Lost In Space, shouting “Warning, warning! That does not compute!”