© Peter Dazeley / Getty Images
Mike Pomranz
Updated October 12, 2016

Parents and their children obviously have a lot of things in common. But according to a recent study, food allergies aren’t necessarily one of them – even if parents believe otherwise.

According to Live Science, researchers at Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins University and the Children's Hospital of Chicago looked at 2,477 parents of children with known food allergies in the Chicago area. These parents were first asked to complete a survey about their own food allergies before being given two tests – a skin test and a blood test – to check for these and other potential allergies. Almost 14 percent of the parents surveyed claimed they had food allergies, but after testing, only 28 percent of those who said they had such allergies actually tested positive for them.

The researchers posited a number of possibilities for the discrepancy. First, parents of children with food allergies may think they have these allergies too because they are more acutely aware of the issue. Another possibility is that these adults used to have food allergies as children but were never retested as an adult and were unaware they had since subsided. The researchers also admit they did not use the “gold standard” of allergy tests – the “food challenge” test – where subjects actually have to consume a small amount of the food in question and are monitored firsthand, meaning some of those who didn’t test positive for allergies with the other two tests could still be allergic – though probably not enough participants to cover the large discrepancy.


Despite the misreporting, there was a correlation between kids and parents. “Parents of kids with food allergies had a higher rate of positive blood and skin tests to foods than the general population,” allergist Dr. Melanie Makhija, co-lead author of the study, said in a statement. She later continued, “While we found positive test results were more common in parents of kids with food allergies, the actual levels in the blood for the foods were quite low. Low positives in allergy testing are more likely to be false positives. This points to the importance of proper testing for any kind of allergy, but particularly food allergies. Interestingly, we also found that of the parents who reported no food allergy, 14 percent had positive tests to peanut and sesame, for example."

So, parents, maybe you don’t have as much in common with your children as you thought.

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