Primary Care Doctors Not Usually Conversant In Allergies, Study Finds

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A new survey of 500 internists and pediatricians found that misconceptions about allergies were common, especially with food allergies.

The survey found many misconceptions, misunderstandings, and knowledge gaps for basic food allergy awareness. One-third of all doctors and half of all interns did not know how to treat hives and vomiting from those who've ingested a known food allergen (epinephrine injection). Most pediatricians (73 percent) did not know that milk and eggs are the most common causes of food allergies in children under age 4.

The findings of the survey were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology over the weekend. Other common misconceptions found by the survey involved skin testing and shellfish/iodine allergy.

Most pediatricians thought skin testing for food or airborne allergens was inaccurate when done in children younger than 3 -- which isn't true. 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. This is because shellfish contain iodine, but iodine is not what causes an allergic reaction to shellfish.

The study's authors hope that the misconceptions and knowledge gaps the study shows can become focus points for training and understanding. The ACAAI hopes to use the information to create educational materials for physicians.

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