Managing Food Allergy When the Patient Is Not Highly Allergic

Scott H. Sicherer, Elissa M. Abrams, Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, Jonathan O.B. Hourihane

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Few patients with food allergy are “highly allergic,” meaning they always have severe reactions and always react to very small amounts of allergen. Standard medical approaches for allergy management have focused on the safety and lifestyle modifications this group truly needs, but consequently families with food allergy are typically advised to strictly avoid any exposure to their implicated allergens. Most food-allergic subjects are actually not reactive to very low doses, and many never experience severe reactions. There are also notable conditions where a different care plan is already commonly offered: patients with pollen-related food allergy syndrome, with food-associated exercise-induced anaphylaxis, and with resolving or mild milk or egg allergy might be advised to ingest the allergens in specific circumstances with detailed instructions. Because oral immunotherapy and allergy prevention by early exposure have emphasized alternatives to strict avoidance, there is increasing interest in prospects to forego strict avoidance in those with food allergy. For patients with a high threshold of reactivity (low-dose tolerant, high-dose mildly reactive), there may be options such as allowing the ingestion of products with precautionary allergen labels, allowing dietary indiscretions with small amounts of the allergen, or even encouraging ingestion of subthreshold amounts with therapeutic intent. These practices have not been extensively studied and could be considered controversial. If these approaches are considered, shared decision making is needed in discussing them with patients and families. This review considers the potential approaches to those who are “not highly allergic”: the risks, benefits, shared decision making, and research needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-55
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Allergen avoidance
  • Food allergy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Labeling
  • Threshold


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