DrWhite2Q: My 3-year-old was diagnosed with milk allergy as an infant. I’ve read that many children outgrow their milk allergy. How often should she be retested? 

Martha White, MD: Immune responses to foods evolve throughout life, and with time, many children will eventually outgrow their food allergies. This is more likely to happen with milk, wheat and egg, and less likely to happen with nuts and shellfish.

Therefore, I check food-specific IgE levels every year in my food-allergic patients.

Much work is being done in the field of food allergy, and there is published data on the correlation between levels of IgE (the allergy molecule) for foods such as milk, egg and peanut, and the risk of having an allergic reaction to eating that food.

IgE levels to specific foods vary over time, initially rising and then falling in most allergic individuals. As the IgE levels fall, the risk of a reaction declines as well, and as a result some people are less likely to experience a reaction. There is also research underway on testing for specific components of foods, such as peanut and milk, that predict the likelihood of a severe versus a minor allergic reaction to that food.

By Martha White, MD

Martha White, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist at the Institute of Asthma and Allergy in Wheaton, Md., a member of Allergy & Asthma Network’s Board of Directors, and a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Have a medical question? Email editor@allergyasthmanetwork.org or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182.