Primary care physicians aren’t up to speed on allergies 03.23.2015

Going to a primary care physician may not be the best way to tackle your allergy issues. Many primary care doctors may not be up to speed on the causes and best treatments for allergies according to a study of over 400 internists and pediatricians. In fact, the researchers found that misconceptions about allergies were fairly common – particularly when it came to food allergies.

For example, one-third of all doctors, and half of internists, did not know the go-to treatment for a person who develops hives and vomiting after eating a known food allergen. PS…the answer is epinephrine.

There were also false beliefs among the docs about some of the causes and consequences of allergies. According to the findings, 85% of internists thought people with egg allergies could not receive the flu vaccine. And only 27% of pediatricians knew that milk and eggs are the most common causes of food allergies in children younger than 4. Instead, pediatricians more often cited strawberries, which don’t even make the list of the eight most common food allergens, said Dr. Neeta Ogden, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

“It’s concerning that many pediatricians don’t have the most common food allergens on their radar,” said Ogden, who was not involved in the study.

One doctor stated that it’s understandable for primary care doctors to lack some allergy knowledge, since they can’t be experts in all specialties.

Two other misconceptions were common in the survey: Most pediatricians thought skin testing for food or airborne allergens is inaccurate when done in children younger than 3 – which isn’t true, Ogden said.

In addition, most doctors thought it was necessary to ask patients about allergies to shellfish or iodine before they could have a CT Scan or other tests that use iodine-containing “contrast” dyes.

That’s because shellfish contain iodine, and some doctors mistakenly think people with shellfish allergies are at risk of reactions to contrast dyes. People with shellfish allergies don’t have a higher risk of an allergic reaction to contrast dyes than the general population, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology practice guidelines on drug allergies.

If you or your child has an allergy, especially a more complicated condition like a food allergy, or if your allergy or asthma symptoms are not well controlled, it might be time to see a specialist.

“I always say, don’t just sit on your symptoms,” Ogden said. “There are many ways we can help you get them under better control.”

Credit: Amy Norton, HealthDay News

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