26 November 2009

Allergy Testing

Pretty much everyone I know is allergic to something. Both my mother and brother-in-law are allergic to nuts, my father and brother get migraines if they eat certain foods, my stepmother has problems eating scampi, my partner thinks he's allergic to gluten or wheat... I myself have suffered from hayfever since my mid-teens and am allergic to touching at least one species of plant.

A few weeks ago I had a rather uncomfortable itching reaction to something (possibly edible, possibly chemical) whilst staying at a friends and it made me wonder if it might be an idea to undergo allergy testing. We own several books on nutritional health and most come with some sort of suggestion for a diet plan for eliminating and reintroducing foods, but given the variety of things that can cause an allergic reaction I'm unsure that I would ever put my finger on it even if I tried that technique. The NHS make it quite clear on their website that most methods of allergy testing aren't 100% effective, but then there are also dozens of testimonials from people whose lives have been turned around after finding they were allergic to something they'd been eating regularly for years. An example of someone who found out they were allergic to cos lettuce (not any other kind) and sunflower seeds demonstrates just how difficult it would be to find that out using an elimination and reintroduction diet.

So I'm considering undergoing allergy testing. Probably a waste of money, but then it only takes an hour and I wouldn't need to do it more than once unless I developed other allergies later in life (which does happen). I'm not going to be conned by one of those sites on the internet asking you to send off a hair, so I've found a local clinic run by an NHS nurse, but thought I would consult my fellow bloggers before booking an appointment. As I said pretty much everyone I know thinks they know what they are allergic to, but has anyone actually undergone testing and if so would they recommend a particular method?


Scriptor Senex said...

I've had allergy testing on the NHS where they put spots of various chemicals on your arm and test for a reaction. I didn't react to anything. Since I know I can get an instant migraine from courgettes and stand a good chance of getting one from a dozen other things I am a bit skeptical. However, as you say, there are some people whose lives have been turned around by such testing and I think it is a worthwhile thing to do.
P.S. Most people find they are are allergic to teenagers!

Bryony said...

Not sure if you have already done this, but there are many different types of allergy testing, so which one are you talking about?

I have been "patch tested" (a more modern version of Dad's experience) where you spend three days with tiny little spots of allergens taped to your entire back. This is basically a foot square of sticky tape and itches like hell even if you aren't allergic to any of the spots! This predominantly tests for skin allergies that produce rashes, although if you have an allergic reaction with vomiting, rash, wheeze and/or collapse this would come back positive too.

As to testing for food allergens, then sometimes you have to eliminate them from your diet for at least a month (in the case of gluten even longer than that) for you to be any better. I would be very careful before handing your money over to make sure you get what you pay for.

Incidentally there is a fairly accurate blood test for gluten sensitive enteropathy (although the definitive test involves an endoscopy) but it will only come back positive for Coeliac if you are eating gluten in your diet at the time. This is relatively simple and I would advise Ian to have the blood test but make sure he has bread etc. in his diet for at least the month beforehand.

Hope this helps