My 9 year-old has participated in at least 8 food challenges at National Jewish Hospital over the years. They are extremely nerve wracking for both of us and can take 4 to 8 hours. If you have a food allergic child and your doctor has suggested doing a food challenge, here is what you can expect.
- No antihistamines for up to 5 days before the challenge. This can alter your results.
- Check in at the scheduled time. A nurse will take height, weight and all vital signs to establish a baseline before the challenge.
- Your child will be served small amounts of each suspected food. Amounts will increase every 30-60 minutes until your child has eaten a normal sized portion, or until there has been a reaction. Be sure your child is hungry on arrival.
- Your child will be monitored closely by nursing staff during the challenge. They will take vital signs, check skin for hives and check for tummy tenderness or nausea prior to the next dose of suspected food. Your doctor will also be present in case of a serious reaction.
- After the food challenge is complete, your child may need to stay for observation for up to 2 hours.
- Due to the long day and the potential for an allergic reaction, siblings should not attend.
- Although the hospital can provide food from the kitchen, I am always prepared with “safe” food from home for snacks and lunch so I know there is no contamination from other foods.
- Bring lots of entertainment. The clinic where our challenges take place has a t.v., some kid toys, books and a Pac Man video game. Even so, it can be very boring for a young child to wait in a small room for hours. I like to bring some of his favorite things from home and even a surprise gift once in a while.
Food challenges aren’t perfect. My son has passed egg and soy challenges and gone on to eat those foods minimally in his diet. He has also passed beef, chicken and turkey challenges only to become sick later. It can be very disappointing when that happens but we stay hopeful and continue trying.
I am not a doctor. This information is based on our personal experiences with food challenges, you should always be in the care of a medical professional when participating in a food challenge. Click here, for more information on food challenges at National Jewish Hospital. Click here, to read about Nightline’s story on food allergies.
I would love to hear what your experiences have been with food challenges. Please share your thoughts here.