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If blood and skin testing for a potential food allergy is negative your allergist may order an in office food challenge.
A food challenge is a type of food allergy test conducted by an allergist. It is considered the “gold standard” of food tests and a highly-effective way of examining what foods an individual is allergic to. This test is also commonly known as an oral food challenge (OFC) or feeding test. You can receive a food challenge test as a child or adult. During the food challenge, you can only be tested for one food at a time.
During a food challenge, a patient will be gradually introduced to a specific food in increasing larger amounts to test their tolerance. As the more and more of the food is introduced to your system, the allergist will monitor to see if a patient reacts. If symptoms of a reaction start, treatment will begin immediately and the food challenge will stop.
Since this test has the potential to cause a serious allergic reaction or life-threatening anaphylaxis, the test should only be done under medical supervision. During the test, the patient is closely monitored for any negative reaction to the food.
Any individual, no matter their age, can benefit from a food challenge. However, a food challenge can be extremely useful for young children who have the symptoms of an allergy (such as hives or flushing) at a young age but don’t know the trigger. It can also be conducted on older children or adults who have lived most of their lives with an allergy but want to know if they’ve outgrown it.
Since a food challenge is conducted to test an allergy, a patient may experience flushing, itching or hives or other signs of an allergic reaction. While most allergic reactions are mild, a severe reaction may occur.
Before you or your child are expected to go to the allergy clinic for a food challenge, speak with your allergist to see if there’s anything you can or cannot do before the appointment. On most occasions, your allergist will request that the patient does not take any antihistamines (allergy medications) for three to five days prior to the food challenge.
During the test, the patient must be in 100% good health. Since the test takes approximately three to six hours, it’s a good idea to bring something to do, like a coloring book or electric device. You can expect a high level of supervision during the exam in a friendly and safe environment. If you or your child do not experience symptoms, you can expect to be monitored for one hour.
If the patient has a reaction during the test, it will be treated promptly and in accordance with the severity. For example, a mild reaction may be treated with antihistamines, while a more severe reaction would require an epinephrine auto-injector and observance for multiple hours, or possibly a transfer to an emergency room.
The patient must be feeling well on the day of the food challenge. A food challenge may need to be rescheduled if the patient is sick or if the patient is experiencing worsening asthma, eczema, or nasal allergies the week the food challenge is scheduled.
Before a food challenge, you should not have anything to eat for at least 4 hours. Infants and younger children can have a light meal 2 hours before the challenge.
If you have any questions or concerns about the procedure, please call 704-372-7900. Because there is a substantial waiting list for food challenges, please take care in scheduling the food challenge appointment and inform the office as soon as possible if you need to reschedule.