Not all nut allergy tests are reliable

Too many nut allergies being diagnosed by 'unreliable' tests: Reaction to one type does not mean it is necessary to give up all nuts

Too many nut allergies being diagnosed by 'unreliable' tests: Reaction to one type does not mean it is necessary to give up all nuts

Researchers from American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) in the USA examined records of about 109 people with a known tree nut allergy to an individual nut.

Often, people who are allergic to a specific tree nut are told to avoid all other tree nuts but a United States study suggests this may be unnecessary. A new study suggests that many people may be avoiding nuts altogether because they've been diagnosed with allergies that they don't actually have.

The study included results from all tree nut oral food challenges conducted at the University of Michigan Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology clinics from 2007 through 2015. Despite showing sensitivity to other tree nuts, more than 50 percent of those tested had no reaction to the nuts during the oral food challenge.

It may be worth getting tested by an allergist for each specific nut, the team reported in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

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Scientists have deemed nut allergy tests inaccurate, saying that an allergy from one type of nut doesn't determine your sensitivity to all other nuts. The participants were given blood or skin prick tests and oral food challenges.

Findings from the retrospective analysis involving more than 100 patients with tree nut allergies or sensitization suggest that skin and blood testing is not particularly accurate for identifying tree nut co-allergy, according to Christopher Couch, MD, of the University of MI in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.

People with a tree nut allergy are often advised to avoid other tree nuts based only on a positive blood or skin prick test.

Instead, allergy sufferers should take what is called an oral food challenge, the researchers said.

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Researchers "strongly suggest" that people also consider taking an oral food challenge, which involves eating tiny amounts of nuts in increasing doses over a period of time, under the supervision of an allergist. You should NOT do your own oral food challenge at home.

"What this study shows is that patients can have positive [skin or blood] tests, without being truly allergic", he said. However, more research is needed to confirm the new findings.

"It's not surprising", said Dr. Jonathan Spergel, chief of the allergy section at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Spergel, who published a similar finding previous year, said he hopes that as more studies debunk the myth that being allergic to one type of nut rules out consuming all nuts, people will incorporate more of these healthy foods into their diets. "That will only exacerbate their problem".

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