NICE issues food allergy guidance
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has advised against the use of alternative and high street tests in its first evidence-based guideline on the diagnosis of food allergy in children.
Skin prick and/or blood tests for immunoglobulin E antibodies may be used to determine a particular allergic reaction, but alternative methods such as the Vega test, kinesiology and hair analysis, for which there is currently little evidence of efficacy, should be avoided.
The organization says that GPs should consider food allergy if a child presents with one or more of the following: skin conditions such as eczema or acute urticaria; gastrointestinal problems; respiratory complaints such as sneezing or shortness of breath or anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions.
It should also be considered in children who do not adequately respond to treatment for atopic eczema, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and chronic constipation.
If food allergy is suspected, GPs should take an allergy-focused clinical history, including a family history of allergies, an assessment of symptoms, details of any foods that are avoided and why, and feeding history as an infant. This should be followed by a physical examination concentrating on growth and physical signs of malnutrition.
Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: "This guideline identifies clear, evidence-based approaches to help healthcare professionals diagnose and assess this condition, which is often misunderstood because many of the symptoms are common to other complaints."
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By Lucy Piper