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New child food allergy guidelines

NICE issues new NHS guidance on diagnosis and treatments of food allergies in children, and advises against alternative and high street testing
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
girl eating unhealthy lunch

23rd February 2011 - The NHS watchdog NICE is issuing new guidance on diagnosing and treating suspected food allergies in children - and advising against using some alternative and high street food allergy testing.

Food allergies

Food allergies are adverse reactions to allergens in food. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says they are among the most common allergic disorders and are a major child health problem.

Reactions can be extremely severe and UK hospital admissions for food allergies have increased by five times since 1990.

Food allergies now affect around 6% to 8% of children up to the age of three.

The most common foods to which children are allergic include cow’s milk, fish/shellfish, hen’s eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, wheat and kiwi fruit.

Food allergy symptoms

Food allergy in children can cause a range of symptoms including:

NICE says food allergy should also be considered in children who don’t respond well to treatment for atopic (allergic) eczema, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and chronic constipation.

If a food allergy is suspected, the GP or other healthcare professional should take an allergy-focused medical history, including any family history of allergies. Symptoms should be assessed and details of any foods that are avoided - and the reasons why - recorded.

A physical examination should pay attention to growth and physical signs of malnutrition.

The guidelines also recommend giving parents information based on the type of allergy suspected, the risk of severe allergic reaction and the diagnostic process. This may include excluding specific foods from the diet and reintroducing these foods with reoccurrence of the allergic reaction confirming diagnosis.

Diagnosis may also include skin prick and/or blood tests for IgE (immunoglobulin) antibodies because specific antibodies suggest particular allergic reactions.

Alternative testing ‘not recommended’

Alternative methods of diagnosis available on the high street or on the internet, such as the Vega test, kinesiology and hair analysis are not recommended by NICE.

It says there is currently very little evidence to show that these tests work, despite alternative tests costing up to £60 online and more on the high street.

Reacting to the NICE comments, the Kinesiology Federation issued a statement clarifying its position on the treatment of allergies and intolerances by its members: “Members of the Kinesiology Federation are regularly reminded that they cannot treat allergies unless they are medically trained; ie. they are a doctor who can diagnose and treat medical conditions.

“Members are not normally able to access laboratory testing facilities, nor are they qualified to diagnose and treat any medical condition. Unlike a doctor working in the allopathic, medical model of health who finds a treatment which works to reduce the symptoms of illness or disease, members of the Kinesiology Federation balance a person’s energy systems and are concerned with the improvement of health and wellbeing. This may result in the reduction or disappearance of symptoms.”

The Federation recommends that members get clients to sign a consultation sheet to show they understand that kinesiologists do not give medical diagnoses or treatment - and that it is the client's responsibility to consult a GP about any medical problem that they have or become aware of.

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