33MD for February 3, 2009

POSTED: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - 6:57pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:57pm

The CDC estimates, in the last decade alone, the number of children with food allergies has increased 18%. But now, researchers say the standard tests used for detecting food allergies may be misdiagnosing a third of those cases.

Snack time at the Whiton’s has always been a challenge. 7-year-old Max was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. Max’s dad is allergic to peanuts, so to be on the safe side Max was tested early on and showed signs of peanut, coconut, and sunflower seed allergies. Doctors warned Max’s parents not to let him eat any foods with those ingredients.

Max’s mom, Hillary Whiton, says, “When I take him to a Birthday party I have to worry about what the parents are serving and sometimes I think that people don’t want to have him over at their house because they’re worried he might react.”

The Centers for Disease Control estimates as many as 3 million children under the age of 18 have food allergies. But doctors at Denver’s National Jewish Health believe as many as one third of them may have been misdiagnosed. Dr. David Fleischer, Asst. Professor of Pediatrics, says, “The skin testing, the blood tests aren’t the best tests for diagnosing food allergies, so the food challenge is what we call the gold standard.”

So, today Max is there, being retested and to take the food challenged. Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Dan Atkins says, “What we found today was that he had a small positive skin test to sunflower seeds, but when we did the food challenge he tolerated the ingestion of sunflower seeds without any problem, so they can add them back to his diet.”

Still, doctors caution severe allergies can be life threatening and that these tests, including the food challenge, must be done with a doctor’s supervision.