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What's the deal with at-home do-it-yourself allergy test kits?

What's the deal with at-home do-it-yourself allergy test kits?

Well, that's a great question. So if you've looked at some other clips that we have in regards to the role of allergy tests, then you've likely heard me say that allergy tests are not screening tests. When you go to see your allergist, they should not be placing a bunch of allergy tests on you or ordering a bunch of allergy tests, then picking and choosing what results come back to diagnose allergy.

The diagnosis of allergy should always start with a very detailed clinical history. What are your symptoms? What's the recurrence of your symptoms upon exposures to the allergen? Is that consistent or worrisome for allergy? If your history is suggestive for allergy, then allergy tests can be obtained to help confirm or rule out the presence of allergy.

With at-home allergy tests, it’s backwards. They actually screen for a bunch of allergies, but these tests were never designed to be used as screening tests. If those results from an at-home test come back negative, they're likely reliable. And we can believe that allergy isn’t present. But if they come back, "positive,” we absolutely have to question the validity of it because we get high rates of false positive results.

So, we always recommend extreme caution in ordering any type of panel testing, especially when it's done at home without proper evaluation first.

Diagnosis, Food Allergy
Answered by

David Stukus, MD, is a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology, Director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center, and Associate Director of the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is board certified in allergy/immunology and pediatrics.

Dr. Stukus has devoted his career to communicating evidence-based medicine and best clinical practice to colleagues, medical professionals of all backgrounds, patients, and the general public. In addition to providing clinical care for children with all types of allergic conditions, he participates in clinical research, quality improvement, patient advocacy, and medical education.

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