Talk to Your Patients About Allergies: The Follow-up

By Karin Krisher

After detailing the big concepts of allergy conversations, we were sure we had painted a reasonably complete picture.

But then this article about children’s allergies arrived in our inboxes, and we thought we had better take a moment to share that there are even more obvious allergy dangers to discuss with your patients.

One warning is so important, it earned itself an entire blog post.

Remember reading this?  “Begin with the idea that allergies are malleable. They change. That doesn’t mean your patients should ignore signs of allergic reaction—only that they should understand that allergies can develop and conversely disappear through changes in time and environment.” I wrote it, I meant it, and I still do.

However, information that came to light in the highlighted study tells me that there needs to be a caveat to this conversation: The fact that allergies can fade and develop does not give your patients the green light to experiment at will—especially with children. The study found that a significant percentage of children’s allergies are caused by intentional ingestion of the known allergen. Whether these are provided to the children in the name of experimentation or harm in each case is not clear, but researchers suspect the former.

Tell your patients not to allergy test at home. If a child has a known allergy and hasn’t been introduced to the allergen since the previous reaction, despite any length of time passed, to reintroduce the allergen is to ignore medical advice at your patients’ peril.

Tell your patients to just see an allergist, or to come to you (if allergy testing is available at your office) and avoid taking unnecessary risks. No peanut should be tempting enough to put a child in a potentially harmful situation.

That said, your patients shouldn’t be forever terrified of the allergen. The best advice, again, is simple. Get professionally tested. Have the children tested. Don’t spend life on either end of the allergy spectrum—hypochondriatic or thrill seeking. Share this information with your patients, so that their next reaction can be their last, and so that children in this position may remain both safe and informed.

Have you ever cared for a patient who had intentionally induced his or her own or children’s allergies? What advice did you give them for the future? Tell us in a comment!