Various Methods of Identifying a Food Allergy

Using a Diet Diary in Food Allergy Diagnosis

Sometimes your healthcare provider can't make a food allergy diagnosis solely on the basis of your history. In that case, you may be asked to keep a record of the contents of each meal you eat and whether you have a reaction. This gives more detail from which you and your provider can see if there is a consistent pattern in your reactions.
 

Elimination Diets and Food Allergy Diagnosis

The next step some healthcare providers use to make a food allergy diagnosis is an elimination diet.
 
Under your healthcare provider's direction, with an elimination diet:
 
  • You don't eat a food suspected of causing the allergy, such as eggs
  • You then substitute another food -- in the case of eggs, another source of protein.

 

Your healthcare provider can almost always make a diagnosis if the symptoms go away after you remove the food from your diet.

     
The food allergy diagnosis is confirmed if you then eat the food and the symptoms come back. You should do this only when the reactions are not significant and under your healthcare provider's direction.
 
Your healthcare provider can't use this technique, however, if your reactions are severe or don't happen often. If you have a severe reaction, you should not eat the food again.
 

Food Allergy Diagnosis: Skin Test

If your history, diet diary, or elimination diet suggests a specific food allergy is likely, your healthcare provider will then use tests to confirm the food allergy diagnosis.
 
One of these is a scratch skin test, during which an extract of the food is placed on the skin of your lower arm. Your provider will then scratch this portion of your skin with a needle and look for swelling or redness, which would be a sign of a local allergic reaction.
 
If the scratch test is positive, it means that there is IgE on the skin's mast cells specific to the food being tested. Skin tests are rapid, simple, and relatively safe.
 
You can have a positive skin test to a food allergen, however, without having an allergic reaction to that food. A healthcare provider diagnoses a food allergy only when someone has a positive skin test to a specific allergen and the history of reactions suggests an allergy to the same food.
 
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