Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why Do Bad Allergy Doctors Stay In Business?

I recently saw a post from a mom that I've seen in various flavors, over and over, for years:

"Help! My child just went to the allergist. They performed a comprehensive panel of scratch tests and the doctor told me he's positive to tomato, soy, walnuts, pecans, peanut, kiwi, fish, potato, beans, wheat, lettuce and milk. How do I feed him now?!"

Why is it that, despite clear guidance from the AAAAI and other organizations on the limits of these tests, doctors continue to do these treasure hunts?

Dr. Wood, a noted expert in the field, has estimated that up to 60% of "positives" on a SPT are really false positives. Because of this, a skin prick test should be used to confirm an allergy to which there is already a clinical history. Allergies are confirmed by SPT and at least one other piece of evidence: a history of issues when eating the food, a positive RAST test and/or a food challenge.

I'm not excusing all mothers. There are plenty of mothers who shop for an allergist until they find one willing to do this type of shotgun testing because they have anxiety/control issues and actually want to limit what their child eats. There are other mothers who, either intentionally or unintentionally, misunderstand the information their allergist gives them after this type of a test. However, there are enough of these stories floating around the various support groups on the web that you have to wonder: why are the good allergists not policing the bad ones? Why is this type of nonsense testing happening at all? Is it going to take a "Hall of Shame" for doctors to get them to stop?

Bottom line: if your doctor has given you a long list of foods to avoid only on the basis of SPT results, find a new doctor.  Don't assume that all allergists know what they are doing when it comes to food allergy testing. Educate yourself and understand what allergy tests can -- and cannot -- tell you.

Follow me on Facebook for updates!