Protocol also designed to aid physicians in diagnosis
A collaborative, government-led effort to guide and standardize diagnosis, treatment and management of food allergies has resulted in the release of an official set of recommendations for physicians.
The guidelines are being published online this week by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), and available online at www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/clinical/Pages/default.aspx. They were developed by the National Institutes of Health and leading researchers and clinicians, professional and patient advocacy organizations, and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, among others.
Food allergies are among the most common medical conditions, believed to affect three out of 100 Americans, and the number of affected people has been steadily rising in the last 20 years for reasons not well understood, scientists say.
"Paradoxical as it may be, up until now we have lacked uniform guidelines based on hard scientific evidence about how to diagnose and treat these very common conditions that affect the lives of millions of people," said Robert Wood, M.D., one of the six lead authors on the guidelines and director of the Division of Allergy & Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
The guidelines, available at www.jacionline.org, are designed for use by specialists, primacy-care physicians and other healthcare staff. They consolidate the latest available data into straightforward and consistent protocols for diagnosis and treatment.
"Because the guidelines will give physicians a uniform and consistent pool of information on the latest and most effective diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, patients are more likely to get the most-up-to-date care regardless of where they seek care," Wood says.
Some topics covered in the guidelines include:
- Clear-cut definitions of food allergy and food intolerance, two commonly confused, but completely different conditions
- What tests should be used for the proper diagnosis of a food allergy, including a discussion on skin-prick and blood testing vs. gold-standard oral food challenges
- Management of life-threatening and non-life-threatening allergic reactions
- Advice on management of life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis) for patients and physicians, including an anaphylaxis emergency action plan
- Development and natural course of food allergies by type of allergy and age