Food allergies can be a major health risk. Just as dangerous, however, is trying to diagnosis an allergy on your own. Often this approach will result in excluding necessary nutrients from your diet. Worse yet, a misdiagnosis might cause you to leave a serious condition untreated. When visiting a doctor, you should take necessary precautions to communicate all relevant information. You should also verify that the approach suggested by the doctor is scientifically sound.
Preparing to Visit a Doctor
Find a credentialed doctor.
It can be tempting to imagine that you have isolated the cause of your allergy on your own and don’t need professional assistance. What appears like an allergy can actually be part of a larger disorder. Flawed self-diagnoses can cause these issues to go untreated and result in unnecessarily limiting your access to appropriate sources of nutrition.
- It is also important that the doctor you seek has proper medical training. Some experimental methods of testing allergies are actually suspected of increasing the risk of acquiring an allergy.
Call in advance to request a food allergy test.
If your healthcare provider offers the service, you can schedule an appointment specifically to get tested for food allergies.
- In some cases, offices may require a consultation prior to testing to ensure that your insurance will cover the test. If you have no medical reason for suspecting a food allergy, such as gastrointestinal discomfort or hives after eating certain foods, your doctor may wish to discuss the appropriateness of the test or try food elimination prior to subjecting you to a skin food allergy test.
Ask whether the test will be provided at your practitioner’s office. In some cases, you may be sent off-site to a laboratory or referred to an allergy specialist for a food allergy test. If this is the case, ask whether you first need to be seen at your healthcare provider’s office or if you can simply go directly to the test center or specialist office.
Ask your healthcare provider if you need to prepare for the allergy test. Some physicians may request that you practice an elimination diet or keep a food diary. These can be necessary for isolating an allergy and determining what tests are required. Do not pursue these methods, however, without the explicit recommendation of a doctor.
Isolate the cause of your symptoms.
Some people will break out into hives immediately after eating something they are allergic to. Sometimes, however, allergic reactions are delayed. This can make it harder to determine what caused symptoms. Your doctor, therefore, might request that you do some work to isolate the allergen before you show up.
- Think back to what you ate on the day of your outbreak. Eliminate those foods from your diet for two weeks, slowly introducing them back into your diet, one at a time. When you have a negative reaction after introducing a new item to your diet, you should have this food tested by a doctor.
- Alternatively, you can keep a food diary, meticulously recording what you eat, when you eat it, and what reactions you have.
- If the allergy was severe enough to be dangerous, you should refrain from these methods.
Write down all relevant information.
This includes your symptoms and everything that might have influenced your condition. Before you visit the doctor, you should be sure that you have available all the information that will allow him to diagnosis your allergy. Writing this down will make it less likely that you forget important information.
- Write down all of the symptoms you had. This includes symptoms that maybe came later and seemed unrelated. They could be part of the same disorder and might be important for diagnosing your condition.
- Also write down all of the medications that you were on and all of the foods that you ate when the symptoms occurred. Major life changes and outside stressors can also cause negative physical effects, so be sure to inform your doctor of these as well.
- If you can, consider bringing along a family member or friend. He or she might
Undergoing Professional Testing
Know what to avoid.
The only approved methods of testing allergies are the skin prick test, the blood test, and the oral food challenge. Other methods of testing can lead to false results and might even be dangerous. Some unapproved methods include:
- Applied Kinesiology, Cytotoxicity testing vega testing, NAET, IG64 Testing, Hair Analysis, and Pulse Testing.
Get a skin prick test.
This is perhaps the most common food allergy test. A grid is drawn on your skin and tiny amounts of potential food allergens are inserted under the surface of the skin. Squares on the grid that develop a red bump or swelling may indicate a food allergy.
- This test does not necessarily confirm food allergies on its own. More testing might be necessary.
Ask your healthcare provider about a blood test.
This requires sending a sample of your blood to a laboratory to get it tested against an extensive list of potential food allergens. The test measures the level of antibodies against specific foods.
- This test will often be used to confirm the results of a skin prick test. However, these tests can also be subject to some error and thus it might be necessary to undergo additional testing to confirm the results.
Perform an oral challenge under the supervision of a health professional.
When particular foods are suspected to cause an allergy or intolerance, some physicians or health professionals may have you introduce incrementally larger portions of the food into your mouth to test your reaction.
- This can be used to determine if the blood test gave you a false positive.
- This should only be performed under the supervision of a medical professional. Do not attempt on your own.