Food allergies are quite common to all, with 5 percent of children being affected. However, most doctors find it hard to diagnose these types of allergies and even harder for the families to deal with. Because of this, the federal government made an action and released the first-ever complete guidelines so that it would be easier to diagnose and manage food allergies.

These guidelines were released last Monday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, thus giving the doctors and nurses 43 recommendations. The key points are included here and are as follows:

• Recognition of the difference between food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are known to show an inappropriate response from the body’s immune system. Food allergies are mostly caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy. Some uncomfortable food responses but not food allergies are the following: lactose intolerance, including gluten, sulfites in wine, MSG, and other intolerances to food. Such foods are better avoided since food allergies are considered as life threatening.

• There is a number of allergy tests used wrongly. The new guidelines presented are requiring the doctors to get the patient’s history of symptoms first. Later on the doctor can ask the patient to get rid of the suspected allergy-causing food from his or her diet. If ever it is still unclear, the patient would have to undergo a skin prick test. In this case, very minimal amounts of suspect allergens are injected under the skin. If swelling forms, then there is an allergy. A substitute for this is a blood test where antibodies are being looked for. These antibodies are produced as a response to the allergens. Lastly, there is another option which is called an oral food challenge. The patient is asked to eat the suspected allergy-causing food while being monitored by a health personnel. This is not intended to be done at home since a doctor or nurse is needed in the case where a severe reaction is experienced.

• The new guidelines also presents options for avoiding food allergens, which includes reading of food labels and washing of hands and kitchen tools and surfaces regularly. It may be difficult to avoid food allergens that are why the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network has presented many useful parent-tested advices on how to live safely and happily even if you have food allergies.

It may be true that food allergy cases are now quickly rising, peanut allergies in particular, which can be life-threatening. On the brighter side, more and more children have been outgrowing food allergies such as allergies to eggs, milk and what. The key here is smart management.