What You Need to Know About Food Allergies and Oral Food Challenges
A food allergy results from an abnormal immune response to the ingestion of a specific food. Food allergens—the portions of the food that cause the allergic reaction—are usually proteins. Eight foods including cow’s milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, account for 90 percent of food allergies. The overall prevalence of food allergies in adults is estimated to be four percent and eight percent of children suffer food allergies.
Some will experience resolution of a food allergy during childhood or adolescence, while others persist with life-long allergies. Resolution is more likely with cow’s milk, egg, soy and wheat, and less so for peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.
An oral food challenge is a medical procedure used to definitively show whether an ingested food produces allergic symptoms. Food challenges are useful in cases when the medical history and other allergy tests (skin and blood tests) indicate the patient’s allergy may be resolved. Food challenges consist of giving small doses of the food in gradually increasing amounts. After each dose is administered the patient is assessed for signs and symptoms of a reaction with particular attention to vital signs, skin, mucous membranes and lungs. Challenges are performed in a closely monitored medical setting.
The benefits of undergoing an oral food challenge include the nutritional and social benefits of expanding the diet if the food is tolerated without symptoms. However, even if the food triggers a reaction, there is a benefit in confirming that the food allergy continues to be a problem and reaffirms the need for avoidance.
The board certified allergists of Allergy and Asthma Specialists are specially trained and have extensive experience in evaluating patient concerns regarding food allergies. Known in the region as caring for the most high risk food allergic patients, the allergists of A&AS regularly supervise food allergy testing and oral food challenges.