If your child has a serious food allergy, you’d probably think twice before letting their younger sibling eat that food. A lot of parents prefer to have their younger child allergy tested before letting them be exposed to the foods their older sibling is allergic to, but is this necessary?
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases doesn’t recommend allergy testing your child prior to exposing them to foods. Allergy testing has a very high false positive rate. This means that even if your child isn’t allergic to a certain food, they may still test positive for an allergy. They also recommend against testing because the rate of food allergies in the siblings of children with food allergies isn’t actually that much higher than in the general population.
A study that looked at 1,120 children, including food allergic children and their siblings, showed only about one in seven (13.6%) of the siblings had a food allergy. That’s compared to about 1 in 13 children in the general population.
The study also showed that 53% of the siblings had a false positive test result, they tested positive for food sensitisation but showed no signs of allergy once exposed. The other one third of the siblings showed no sensitisation in the allergy test and no allergy once exposed.
Routine screening of the siblings of food allergic children without a history of allergic food reactions would most likely lead to unnecessary avoidance of foods that the child could actually eat. This can impact the child’s quality of life and nutrition. Studies also show that food avoidance can lead to an allergy to that food.
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