Study: Parents of Children with Food Allergies Often Assume They Have Allergies Too

A new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology sought to determine the rate of allergic sensitization in parents of children with food allergies and compare those that self-reported the disease to their specific IgE measurements.

A total of 1,252  mothers and 1,225 fathers of children diagnosed with food allergy were given standardized questionnaires about demographics, home environment, history of atopic diseases, and food allergy. They were then subjected to skin prick testing and sIgE serum tests to 9 foods and 5 aeroallergens.

Dr Rachel Robison
Dr Robison

“While we found positive test results were more common in parents of kids with food allergies, the actual levels in the blood for the foods were quite low. Low positives in allergy testing are more likely to be false positives. This points to the importance of proper testing for any kind of allergy, but particularly food allergies,” said Dr Rachel Robison, co-lead author of the study.

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14.5% of the mothers and 12.7% of the fathers surveyed reported their food allergies of their own. Of that group, only 28.4% were found to be sensitized to the allergen they reported. Put another way, the results show that almost ¾ of the parents that self-reported allergies did not test positive for the food they thought they were allergic to.

Dr Melanie M Makhija
Dr Makhija

“Parents of kids with food allergies had a higher rate of positive blood and skin tests to foods than the general population,” said allergist Dr Melanie Makhija, ACAAI member and co-lead author.

“But of the 2,477 parents, only 28 percent of those who self-reported a food allergy actually tested positive. This tells us that either people haven’t been tested and are assuming an allergy from a previous reaction to a food, or they haven’t been tested properly and may not truly have an allergy. Allergy testing, including blood and skin prick testing, is not always reliable; there are a lot of false positives.

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