The predictive value of skin prick testing for challenge-proven food allergy: a systematic review

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2012 Jun;23(4):347-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3038.2011.01237.x. Epub 2011 Dec 4.


Immunoglobulin E-mediated (IgE) food allergy affects 6-8% of children, and the prevalence is believed to be increasing. The gold standard of food allergy diagnosis is oral food challenges (OFCs); however, they are resource-consuming and potentially dangerous. Skin prick tests (SPTs) are able to detect the presence of allergen-specific IgE antibodies (sensitization), but they have low specificity for clinically significant food allergy. To reduce the need for OFCs, it has been suggested that children forgo an OFC if their SPT wheal size exceeds a cutoff that has a high predictability for food allergy. Although data for these studies are almost always gathered from high-risk populations, the 95% positive predictive values (PPVs) vary substantially between studies. SPT thresholds with a high probability of food allergy generated from these studies may not be generalizable to other populations, because of highly selective samples and variability in participant's age, test allergens, and food challenge protocol. Standardization of SPT devices and allergens, OFC protocols including standardized cessation criteria, and population-based samples would all help to improve generalizability of PPVs of SPTs.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / blood
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Tests / methods*
  • Skin Tests / standards


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E