Tag Archives: Economics

Allergy Testing: An Important Part of Your Diagnosis

Doctor writing prescription

Any specific medical information that follows stems from the following article and is not intended to be taken as definitive or wholly sufficient information. Consult your physician or, in this case, an allergist regarding these topics:

James, T. (2002). Allergy testing.  American family physician. 

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0815/p621.html

 

When living with food allergies, the irritable symptoms that certain foods can produce serve as a prominent indicator for identifying what foods need to be avoided.   That being said, also undergoing allergy testing is important to be fully diagnosed with a food allergy and to initiate effective management of food allergies.  An official food allergy diagnosis is described as consisting of a medical history, physical examination, as well as an allergy test.  Allergy testing is also a way to legitimately distinguish between food allergies and food intolerances.  Food allergies and food intolerances can easily be confused.  In basic terms, a food allergy is a reaction that is triggered by the immune system to a food allergen while food intolerance is related to issues with other body systems, such as digestive problems, which also trigger unpleasant symptoms.  Allergy testing works to identify the body’s immune reaction to specific allergens.
While many of us have gone through a variety of allergy testing, we also may have been fortunate to outgrow allergies or, less-fortunately, developed allergies later in life.  Both of these occurrences are good reasons to seek out allergy testing as adults.  Tests available include IgE skin tests, challenge tests, and blood tests. IgE skin tests (or immediate type hypersensitivity skin tests) are the most common form of allergy testing. This test involves exposing the skin to a small amount of allergen through making a small indentation or ‘pricking’ the surface of the skin.  A reaction should occur within 20 minutes and appears as a small red swollen bump on the skin (also known as the ‘wheal and flare’). If a test is negative, and there is still a suspicion of a food allergen, an intradermal injection can be performed injecting a small amount of the allergen just under the surface of the skin. The physician will again observe for a small red bump to form.  Challenge testing for allergies involves eating a small amount of the suspected allergen.  As I’m sure you would agree, this is a form of testing that should ONLY be performed with your allergist present.  Finally, blood tests involve drawing blood and performing an IgE assay to determine the IgE antibody levels present in the blood that correspond for certain allergens.

If preparing to undergo allergy testing, it can be beneficial to know the benefits and drawbacks of each test compared to one another.  Skin tests can be preferable because they give the fastest result and are relatively less expensive than blood tests.  A drawback to these tests includes the obvious annoying itching that is produced with a positive test.  As well, this test may not be appropriate for those on certain medications such as medications with antihistamine properties that include anticholinergic medications, phenothiazine, and tricyclic antidepressants. Skin testing may also be contraindicated in those with certain skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. The risk of undergoing a severe reaction with skin testing is extremely low with one retrospective study in the USA finding that, out of 18,331 participants whom underwent skin testing over a period of five years, only 6 developed mild systemic reactions (James T.). In terms of the sensitivity and specificity of skin testing, this has been shown to vary with food versus environmental allergens.  Another study conducted found that, when percutaneous skin testing for an allergen was done as part of a two-part allergy test that included a challenge test, the sensitivity of the test ranged from 76-98% with a specificity of 29-57% depending on the food being tested for(James T.). For those unfamiliar with these terms, Sensitivity represents the accuracy the allergy test correctly identifying someone who is in fact allergic. Specificity represents how often someone who doesn’t have an allergy is correctly identified as not having an allergy.  Intradermal tests were found to have a higher sensitivity, but also have a lower specificity.  When comparing this to blood tests, which allow for a laboratory test called an IgE assay to be performed, the IgE has found to be more specific but less sensitive than skin testing(James T.).  It is still more common for skin tests to be performed and blood tests to be more useful only when there is some contraindication to a skin test.  In terms of a challenge test, this is usually performed for one of two reasons: the finding of another allergy test was inconclusive or suspicious OR there is reason to suspect an individual has outgrown a certain allergy.  In some cases, a ‘double blind’ challenge test may occur where the individual eating the food and the medical professional are aware whether the individual is eating the suspected allergen or a placebo.  This is to avoid the possibility of a reaction being triggered based on the idea of eating risky food.  As previously mentioned, this test should only be done under STRICT medical supervision.

Whether you are interested in having an allergy test performed in the near future or not, it never hurts to educate yourself on the ins-and-outs of the testing you may undergo. And it is be better educated on managing as well as understanding your allergies!

 

Caitlyn P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Money Buying Groceries with Allergies

Greek_grocery_vegetables

There is a very good chance that, if you have food allergies or an intolerance, you will spend more money on groceries than others who do not. A recent US study led by allergist Dr. Ruchi Gupta assessed the economic impacts of food allergies. The authors noted increased spending on groceries for families with food allergic members. The results of this study were published September 16th 2013 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The authors state: “Food allergy places unique out-of-pocket cost burdens on families such as purchasing allergen-free foods” (http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1738764). I have lived with life-threatening food allergies and intolerances all of my life. It has been tricky to balance a healthy diet without spending more money than my budget allows. Being a full-time university student was definitely the most challenging time to eat healthy and stay on budget. What made this time particularly tough was that I had just started avoiding wheat and gluten. I took on part-time work to help pay the bills because I was spending huge amounts of money on groceries. With time, I have found tricks to help keep the grocery bills lower and still eat healthy. It has been a work in progress and I have learned quite a bit along the way. I have shared a few tips below that may help you keep your grocery bills a little lower and allow you to save money for other hobbies or priorities.

  1. Try to do a little more home cooking and baking. Products that are “allergen-free” or “free from the top 8 major allergens” can cost an “arm and a leg” and are often things you can make at home for a fraction of the price. It’s nice to have a treat every once in a while; however, some baked goods like muffins and cookies are definitely worth making at home and in the safety of your own kitchen. Pre-packaged foods that are allergen free can also be costly. I often like to try something new and then find or develop my own recipes to make a very similar meal at a fraction of the cost!
  2. Make a meal plan for the week.  By making a meal plan, you can do one-stop grocery shopping for the week. Trying to stick to one grocery shop per week means that you will likely spend less than if you went to go multiple times. It is also much easier to budget this way. List all the ingredients you will need to make each meal, once you have your meal plan, and you are ready to shop!
  3. Keep an eye on weekly flyers. Have a quick look at the flyer specific to the grocery store you usually go to before you make your meal plan for the week. If you see things on special, like meats or other products, plan your meals accordingly.
  4. Buy in larger quantities when you can. With allergies, buying in bulk can be really hard because the items they sell in bulk have avery high risk for cross-contamination. I never buy in bulk. I do, however, stock up on items when they are on sale and when, for example, a larger bag of rice is significantly cheaper than the regular size. Stock up on the staples if the discount is significant.
  5. Look out for coupons. Often brands will have coupons online or available with the purchase of their products. It may seem like a waste of time if you have coupons that are $1.00-$3.00, for instance, but it all adds up. I tend not to bother with the ones that are less than $1.00 off; but, again, everything counts when you are living on a tight budget.
  6. Make it and freeze extras. A jar of spaghetti sauce can run a few dollars at the grocery store. Buy some canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and add ground meat if you’d like to make a tasty homemade sauce that will cost you less and be just as tasty if not tastier that the store-bought brands! I like to make a double batch so I can freeze half of it for an easy dinner another night.

I’m sure you probably have some ideas of your own to save money. These are only a handful of the ones I use. Care to share a few of your own tips and tricks? How do you save money buying groceries with allergies? Share your ideas in the comments section so we can learn from each other.   Good luck!

Erika