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The Best Way To Test Allergies Could Be Eating The Food (With A Doctor)

Even if it feels scary.

09/11/2017 11:25 EDT | Updated 09/11/2017 11:25 EDT
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Going through allergy testing can be a seriously uncomfortable process.

First, there's getting the appointment. Then, there's the skin prick test, 20 minutes of pure discomfort as you watch areas of your skin either blow up with hives (or hopefully not) as it reacts to the allergen put on it.

But of course, getting that test is better than having a serious reaction. And now a new study out of the U.S. is claiming that another type of test — one that's been considered somewhat of a last resort in the past — might not be quite as dangerous as previously believed.

As published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the national study looked at patients' reactions to oral food challenges (OFCs) in doctors' offices and found that the rate of anaphylaxis (the most severe and feared reaction) was much lower than expected, at only two per cent.

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Approximately 7.5 per cent of Canadians have a serious food allergy, while in the U.S., that number is more like four per cent. It's on the rise in both countries, though, and knowing what can cause a reaction is the key first step to preventing it.

And it's not just kids who are affected either. Although more rare, adults can also develop food allergies later in life, so if you've suddenly started feeling sick or itchy after eating, it's worth checking this out with your doctor.

Currently, the process for food allergy testing tends to follow this path: skin prick test, then a blood test, then a food challenge.

Currently, the process for food allergy testing tends to follow this path: skin prick test, then a blood test, then a food challenge, where the potential allergen is literally ingested to see the reaction it causes, often in a hospital.

And while there's no suggestion that those first steps should be discarded, this study shows that those oral tests could be done in "non-research" settings, providing definitive answers sooner for patients who might be suffering and putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

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"It's important to have an accurate diagnosis of food allergy so an allergist can make a clear recommendation as to what foods you need to keep out of your diet," said study senior author and allergist Dr. Carla Davis, according to HealthDay.

There's also the more positive side of things, which is that as new potential solutions are starting to be developed, knowing exactly what you can and can't eat can help target what could work for you.

A recent study out of Australia, for example, saw researchers keep kids' peanut allergies away for at least four years, by combining a probiotic with a common peanut protein.

Regardless, if you're at all concerned that something in your diet (the most common allergens are milk, soy, wheat, peanut, shellfish, eggs, sesame and tree nuts) is affecting you negatively, get it checked out sooner rather than later. These tests could literally save your life.

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