Tests for drug or food allergies

Probably due to an excess of caution, doctors too frequently prescribe tests to determine the presence of allergic reactions (allergy tests) and to identify possible drug or food allergies. This occurs even when a patient’s personal history (in medical terms: medical history) does not indicate a particular allergy risk and even when the patient has no symptoms.

Often, on the night before surgery, an allergy test is almost automatically requested for the drugs intended to be used in both local and general anaesthesia. It is a frequent and overused test, especially for patients with a history of suspected or established allergy to other agents unrelated to drugs. For example, if a patient is allergic to dust mites and pollen, then he/she will automatically be given an allergy test for an anaesthetic.

Allergy tests for food allergens, meanwhile, are often requested due to the presence of symptoms that really shouldn’t make one suspect allergies. These include chronic swelling of the abdomen after meals, headache, halitosis and canker sores.

Advice from Altroconsumo

- Before making any decisions regarding allergy tests, it is important that the doctor gather as much information as possible about the patient and his/her medical history, carefully evaluating any suspected allergies, in order to correctly direct him/her and avoid unnecessary procedures.
- Do not ask to have an allergy test if you do not have allergy symptoms. If you do have symptoms, do not ask for an allergy test for substances that differ from the ones to which you suspect to be allergic.
- If you have symptoms affecting the stomach and intestine, first turn to a gastroenterologist. Such symptoms in fact are rarely caused by food allergies. Only If the gastroenterological exams indicate a possible, rare illness with allergic components is it appropriate to visit an allergist.

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In collaboration with

SIAAIC - Italian Society of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology

The information available in this tool is a clue to talk to your doctor or trusted professional. It is not a substitute for information and advice that you can get by contacting them directly.

To find out more and to know the sources used, consult the Altroconsumo website and the Choosing Wisely Italy website