Allergies: can they be undetectable?

I’d like to see if there’s a way of making a comparable dairy-free crust… At this point I’ve been allergic to dairy for six to eight years, so I’m prepared for it to be a lifetime thing. I did try reintroducing wheat since my last allergy test came back negative for that, but that didn’t go well as far as my esophagus is concerned (plus I wouldn’t eat wheat crust anyway, I’d need to take 25 units to cover it).


Yeah, I’ve tested negative for an actual allergy to dairy (suspected lactose intolerance, though after last night I’m not sure - there shouldn’t have been any lactose in sharp cheddar, and I took enzymes…). If it was an allergy, I wouldn’t keep trying!

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I firmly believe you can be allergic to something but not test positive. I definitely have seasonal allergies – unless it’s sheer coincidence that every spring I start sneezing and get congested – and for a sad period in my early thirties I was allergic to alcohol, even a few drops in a dessert would cause a massive sneezing fit. Despite the obvious evidence, my scratch tests have always been “no reaction.”


Allergy tests—both skin tests and blood tests for IgE antibodies—aren’t perfect and can have false negatives (and false positives).

I have a friend who has seasonal allergies but tests negative to everything pollen-related on her skin test. Her allergist said that you can have IgE antibodies in the mucus membranes (such as nose and eyes) but not in the bloodstream, hence symptoms with pollen contact but no IgE antibodies detectable in the bloodstream (which is what both the skin and blood tests measure). This type of pollen allergy had a name, but I can’t remember it.

I also have a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis, where immune cells build up in my esophagus attacking food and environmental allergens, but because they aren’t in my blood (and aren’t IgE antibodies), they aren’t detectable on allergy tests. So I basically have to go by trial and error and symptoms.

However, with the exception of these types of rare food-allergy conditions, IgE-mediated food allergies usually have pretty distinctive symptoms like itching, flushing, hives, swelling, and so on shortly after eating. The “gold standard” for detecting food allergies is to eat the food under medical supervision in a hospital or allergist’s office and watch for these types of symptoms.


Yikes! I knew food allergy tests could be hit or miss, but didn’t realize scratch tests could be false negatives. Fortunately(?) no false negatives there for me - my back was a red mess after the scratch test.

@Jen, I have heard mixed opinions on whether or not allergies can cause GI distress - some say they do; some say it’s only the typical itching, hives, swelling, etc. I’m curious what you think, with your history of allergies. The only time I’ve reacted with itching/hives was to bananas during pregnancy - went away after; I’ve been fine with them since - which I was later told was likely due to oral allergy syndrome.


In my experience allergic reactions can definitely have a GI component, it’s actually a pretty common symptom. But I’ve never experienced “just” a GI component. Every time I’ve had a GI component, I’ve had the other usual symptoms such as itching and so on. My minor reactions consist of just an itchy mouth/throat or a few hives. Practically all reactions start that way for me (I can’t think of any that haven’t started with an itchy or tingly mouth), and they progress to varying degrees of severity from there.

So I’m not sure if an allergy can cause “just” a GI reaction without other symptoms being involved. I think generally if something just causes GI upset and allergy tests are negative, it’s regarded as an intolerance.

I do know at least two people who have very sensitive dairy intolerances (and everything dairy bothers them, not just lactose), and they have to avoid dairy almost as strictly as someone with an actual allergy.