What to expect from
your healthcare professional
Talking to your healthcare professional
Your child’s first visit to a healthcare professional for suspected food allergy will probably begin with a physical examination and reviewing the history of your child's health, which will include questions about family history of allergies and whether or not your child was breastfed or bottle-fed.1 Your healthcare professional may also ask you when the symptoms began, what sorts of foods your child ate around the time the symptoms started, and what other changes they may have experienced in their environment.
To help your healthcare professional, make a note of when your child had symptoms, capturing the date, time of year and how long they lasted. Write down what your child ate, drank and what activities they were doing, to give your healthcare professional a clear picture of the situation.2
To help prepare for your visit with the healthcare professional, why not take a look at our Parent’s guide to seeking advice from a healthcare professional. This will give you more information about what questions your healthcare professional might ask you and the types of questions that you might like to ask them. To help you remember all of the things that will help your healthcare professional provide a diagnosis, we have created a handy diary for you, where you can record what your child has been drinking, and eating if they are weaning, their sleep patterns, their toilet habits, and any symptoms they are experiencing. We have also included a ‘happy rating’ linked to the symptoms, so that you can use this to talk your doctor through what has been happening.
You can download our Parent’s Guide to seeking advice from a healthcare professional including a one-week diary here:
- Download – Printable pocket Parent’s Guide including a diary for recording while on the go (PDF)
- Download – Digital Parent’s Guide including a diary most suitable for computers (PDF)
- Download – Digital Parent’s Guide including a diary most suitable for smart devices including smartphones and tablets (PDF)
In almost all cases, your healthcare professional will supplement your child’s clinical history with additional tests. This can help healthcare professionals pinpoint potential allergens to focus on.1
In order for your child to be seen by a specialist, a referral from a healthcare professional is needed. If you suspect your child may have a food allergy it is important to ask for a professional diagnosis from your GP as soon as possible, as they can refer you to an allergy clinic. It is worth noting that paediatric allergy clinics are run in a number of hospitals around the country. The paediatric allergists who work in these clinics are doctors and consultants who specialise in children’s allergies, and have an in-depth knowledge of the causes and symptoms of each allergy. These clinics are part of the services offered by the NHS, and can provide your child with the appropriate treatment for their condition.
In some cases the GP may not refer the child to a specialist centre but instead elect to care for them locally. However, the GP is likely to refer your child to a paediatric dietitian, to ensure their nutritional requirements are being met, particularly at the time of weaning.
RXANI140098 Date of preparation: March 2014
Specialist allergy consultation 3
Consultations in hospitals will vary slightly depending on your circumstances. Generally, an allergy consultation will take about 30 minutes, although this may be quicker if you have been seen by another healthcare professional beforehand. The typical consultation starts with the specialist allergy nurse collecting your doctor’s referral letter and introducing you to the clinic. The allergy nurse will then measure your child’s height and weight. This will usually be followed by a consultation with a paediatrician. The healthcare professional will then discuss any allergy tests (see section below) which may be needed.
Diagnostic tools / process
The specialist allergy healthcare professional will decide which test is needed, depending on the type of food allergy that is suspected. Tests may include skin prick testing or a blood test. Most of these tests can be done in the clinic. More information on these types of tests is given below.
- Skin prick test: This is usually painless. A few drops of diluted foods are placed on the arm, before the skin is pierced through the drop using a very small needle, as a way of introducing the food into the body. Itching, redness and swelling will occur if the reaction is positive.1 In rare cases, a skin-prick test can cause anaphylaxis, which is a severe reaction to an allergen which affects the whole body, so testing is only carried out where appropriate facilities are available to deal with this level of reaction1
- Blood test: Instead of the skin prick test, your healthcare professional may perform a blood test to measure the amount of allergic antibodies in the blood1
- Food elimination diet:1 This involves removing the suspected food from your child’s diet for a period of time (two to six weeks) before reintroducing it into their diet. If symptoms disappear when the food is withdrawn and return again once the food is reintroduced, then this will confirm that your child has a food allergy. If you are advised to try the food elimination diet for your child, you should be given advice from a paediatric dietitian, before starting the diet, so do not attempt a food elimination diet by yourself. A dietitian can help you:1
- identify the food and drinks your child needs to avoid
- interpret food labels
- decide whether your child needs any
alternative sources of nutrition
- decide how long the diet should last
- NHS Choices, 2012: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/food-allergy/Pages/diagnosis.aspx Accessed 11th September 2013.
- Allergy UK, 2012: http://www.allergyuk.org/downloads/factsheets/childhood-allergy/Diagnosis%20of%20Allergy%20in%20Children.pdf Accessed 10th September 2013.
- Guys and St. Thomas’ Hospital, 2012: http://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/our-services/childrens/services/childrens-allergy/patients.aspx#na Accessed 22nd July 2013.
RXANI140098 Date of preparation: March 2014