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Parents warned against home child allergy tests

Buying high street tests to self-diagnose children with food allergies could lead to parents actually damaging their health, NICE has said.

It said buying tests from shops or the internet and cutting certain foods out of a child’s diet could leave them lacking nutrients and malnourished.

Parents must take their children to see a GP if they have concerns about allergies, the watchdog said, from where they will be sent to a specialist if necessary.

As it published new guidelines that aim to make NHS diagnoses of food allergies in children quicker, NICE urged parents to avoid costly private testing or buying alternative tests.

Paediatric allergy consultant Dr Adam Fox, of London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, helped write up the new rules.

He said: “It’s not at all unusual that parents will come in with their print out of things they have been told to exclude based on completely invalidated types of testing. The more slick the website, the more they are likely to believe it.”

Dr Fox warned websites can look very professional and contain “pseudo science” but said patients, especially parents, still should not allow themselves to be taken in.

“They have their children on sometimes very restrictive diets which are sometimes completely unnecessary,” he said.

Dr Fox said the number of people - adults and children - who have allergies is rising across the country but doctors do not know precisely why. One big study found one child in 20 has a food allergy and one in 50 has a reaction to nuts.

The guidelines, aimed at those in primary care working with children and young people with suspected food allergy, says parents who opt for private allergy tests should ensure they are seeing a reputable, trained specialist.

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