Standardized guidelines for management of food allergies have been released in the US. It is a collaborative, government-led effort.
The guidelines 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
The guidelines have been published online by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
(JACI) and can be accessed at www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/clinical/Pages/default.aspx.