Have you ever wondered why so many kids are allergic to peanuts these days? Have you ever thought, are so many kids really allergic to peanuts? Really, really? I have. It just doesn’t seem plausible that the food I and my contemporaries grew up on could be so harmful to so many people. Turns out it’s not.

You know how I love it when science backs up my humble opinions, and a new study out of the UK does just that.

False Positives on Peanut Allergy Testing

According to Reuters Health, the UK researchers found that a lot of children (72 out of 79 8-year-olds studied) did not have full blown peanut allergies. These children had been determined ‘peanut-sensitive’ by standard allergy testing, but only 7 had actual allergies by the standards of more extensive testing.

Peanut allergy is typically diagnosed through a skin test or blood test, which are limited to identifying peanut ‘sensitivity.’ According to the article, this measures the immune system’s response to peanut proteins. However, just because a child is sensitive doesn’t mean they are necessarily allergic. A ‘sensitive’ person may never suffer symptoms of wheezing, hives, or swelling like a truly allergic person will.

"This limitation becomes a problem when doctors are trying to diagnose a peanut allergy in a child with no clear history of symptoms," Dr. Adnan Custovic, the senior researcher on the new study, told Reuters Health in an email. "For example, parents often seek peanut-allergy testing when a child has allergies to other foods, or when they have another child with a peanut allergy," explained Custovic, who is with the University of Manchester.

But the current findings suggest that a majority of children who test positive for peanut sensitivity on standard tests do not have true allergies, Custovic and his colleagues report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

While many kids may not be truly allergic, the ones who are face serious health implications, even death, from exposure to peanuts.

What’s the answer? Better safe than sorry? Or just better testing?