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New Guidelines Aid in Diagnosis of Food Allergies
Date:12/6/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A new set of guidelines designed to help doctors diagnose and treat food allergies was released Monday by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

In addition to recommending that doctors get a thorough medical history from a patient when a food allergy is suspected, the guidelines also try to help physicians distinguish which tests are the most effective for determining whether someone has a food allergy.

Allergy to foods such as peanuts, milk and eggs are a growing problem, but how many people in the United States actually suffer from food allergies is unclear, with estimates ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent of children, experts say.

"Many of us feel the number is probably in the neighborhood of 3 to 4 percent," Dr. Hugh A. Sampson, an author of the guidelines, said during a Friday afternoon news conference detailing the guidelines. "There is a lot of concern about food allergy being overdiagnosed, which we believe does happen."

Still, that may still mean that 10 to 12 million people suffer from these allergies, said Sampson, a professor of pediatrics and dean for translational biomedical sciences at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Another problem is that food allergies can be a moving target, since many children who develop food allergies at an early age outgrow them, he noted. "So, we know that children who develop egg and milk allergy, which are two of the most common allergies, about 80 percent will eventually outgrow these," he said.

However, allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are more persistent, Sampson said. "These are more often than not lifelong," he said. Among children, only 10 percent to 20 percent outgrow them, he added.

The 43 recommendations in the guidelines were developed by NIAID after working jointly with more than 30 pr
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