Diagnosis & Testing
Suspected food allergies should always be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by a qualified medical professional, such as a board-certified allergist. Your primary care provider may refer you to an allergist. You may also search the physician directory maintained by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Do not diagnose a food allergy on your own. Self-diagnosis can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and inadequate nutrition, especially in children. Additionally, some people think they are allergic to a food when they actually have another type of food disorder, and treatment may differ.
Some methods of food allergy testing are unproven and are considered controversial, since no definitive studies have shown that they can effectively diagnose food allergies. Some may even increase the risk of an allergic reaction. Learn more about unproven diagnostic food allergy testing.
The first step an allergist will take to diagnose a food allergy is a thorough medical history. The allergist will ask questions to determine if food allergy may be causing your symptoms and to identify the culprit food(s), and will then perform a physical exam.
Next, the allergist may conduct tests to help identify a food allergy. While these tests alone do not always provide clear-cut answers, the allergist will combine your test results with the information given in your medical history to provide a diagnosis. These tests may include:
These tests are all proven diagnostic methods. Depending on your medical history and initial test results, you may have to take more than one test before receiving your diagnosis.
Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States, published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is an excellent resource. Developed by a panel of prominent food allergy experts, along with 34 professional organizations, federal agencies and patient advocacy groups, this document provides the most up-to-date clinical advice on caring for people with food allergies.