When you are unable to eat without getting those hives, puffed up ears or collywobbles, accurate diagnosis can help you to understand your condition. Diagnosing food allergy is not the end of the road as there are many things you need to do later and it is the most important step in getting immediate help. The first step in your journey is by completing a self-screening examination. Although this test is not intended as a self-diagnosis procedure, it can help you decide whether you should consult your family doctor or an allergist for further review and advices. Self-evaluation examination also guides you through the process of gathering information that can be very useful in getting an accurate diagnosis.
After getting enough result from this test, you and the doctor may start the process of identifying the offending food(s). You should follow tips and advice on how to work together with your family doctor and allergist to help you determine if you have a food allergy, and to accelerate the process of allergen identification without unnecessarily restricting your diet too much. There are many allergy tests and diagnostic routines, you can choose.
The process from the moment you feel possible allergy symptoms to receiving a plan for diagnosis and finally treatment can be tricky. To help you navigate yourself in this process, this is the overview:
1. Your GP (general practitioner) performs a physical examination and medical history interpretation. This step is essential to rule out other possibilities, identify foods that could give you symptoms, determine the most suitable test and analyze test results.
2. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist. A good allergist has the experience on diagnosing and treating food allergies, he can perform additional tests, and generally more qualified in interpreting test results.
3. Your allergist conducted a general analysis on your condition. Just like what your doctor did, your allergist may also perform a physical examination and check your medical history. An allergist can perform a few specialized tests to identify food problem(s) and eliminate unrelated suspects:
• Skin tests: Skin tests are used only in diagnosing IgE-mediated food allergy, our immune system creates IgE antibodies in response to certain food. An allergy specialist should test you for the possibility of anaphylaxis and has the skill to correctly analyze the results. If skin test is positive to a type of food, then you have the possibility of having food allergy. Your allergist may perform more tests to determine your reaction to a certain type of food. In general, a negative skin has 90 percent accuracy in determining that you are not allergic to a suspected food.
• RAST or radioallergosorbent tests can detect food-related IgE in the blood. These examinations are widely available in larger cities and not affected by the presence of drugs. RAST is proven to be very effective in the diagnosis of several common food allergies found in children. Results of RAST can show the IgE concentration inside the bloodstream, and it is established RAST results have a high degree of accuracy (about 95 percent) in determining whether a child is allergic to fish, milk, peanuts, nuts or eggs. A child with positive results on RAST and skin test doesn’t require additional tests, such as food challenge to get an accurate and valid diagnosis.
• Food diary: A food diary includes a list of foods you eat and beverages you drink while recording reactions to these foods. A food diary may be useful in identifying the effect of related food, patterns of reactions and hidden ingredients.
• Determining food restriction: Your allergist may ask you to stop eating a food to see if allergy symptoms disappear and to identify problematic foods. The allergist should pay special attention to the overall nutrition level, to see whether the removal of an essential nutrient in the diet can affect a growing and healthy child.
• Food challenge: You are asked to eat suspected foods under the supervision of an allergist. The results of the food challenge can provide more definitive data to diagnose your food allergy condition. In this test, the allergist chooses foods based on your medical history and earlier tests. Only a qualified allergist who is familiar with the extent of allergic reactions and armed with adequate emergency drugs necessary can conduct a food challenge test.
4. Your allergist and GP may order more tests if allergy symptoms persist. You may have a food allergy that is not related to IgE.
Finding solution to your problem often takes time, patience and perseverance. Do not try to take any shortcut by taking tests of dubious quality and unproven alternative therapies.
Many people (especially men) – do not like the idea of visiting a doctor. They often prefer to wait for the symptoms to go away or afraid that they will be diagnosed with serious disease, such as cancer. In most food allergy cases, however, preventing the physician from checking your condition can be dangerous because it would be impossible to get an accurate diagnosis, the longer you delay the treatment, the more likely that there will be an increase in severity and frequency of your disease or disorder.
Allergic reactions start to intensify along with the greater exposure to food allergens. Early diagnosis and effective treatment plan will not only make you feel a lot better, but also keep you from feeling miserable down the road. If someone close to you is experiencing mysterious symptoms, especially a few minutes to several hours after consuming suspected foods or beverages, then there is a possibility of a food allergy.
A self-screening test has three important objectives:
• Help you decide if you should consult your doctor or an allergist (If you have questions after completing an examination, you should see an allergist.)
• Can act as a diary of symptoms and other specific situations that may arise from your diet. A doctor or an allergist can be crucial for getting early and accurate diagnosis.
• Hone your ability in observing and recording food allergy condition, two valuable skills for anyone who has food allergy or caring those who have food allergy.
A self-screening test isn’t for self-diagnosis. Identifying the specific allergens can be difficult, even for an experienced and well trained allergy specialist, and you can be allergic to more than one food. Additionally, other conditions may produce symptoms comparable to allergic reactions. Self-screening test should be used only as a way to help you to understand your own condition and assist health care professional.