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What to Expect at the Food Challenge Clinic

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is a leader in innovative diagnostics and specialized treatments for childhood food allergies. However, if a child is no longer allergic to a food, introduction of the food can be done in one four-hour session under the guidance of highly qualified pediatric allergists at the Division of Pediatric Allergy/Immunology’s Food Challenge Clinic.

Because unnecessary food avoidance limits a child's diet, raises everyone's anxiety about potential allergic reactions and contributes to social stress/stigma, the four-hour Food Challenge Clinic conducted under medical supervision is an important progression as children get older and grow out of the food allergy. A successful food challenge confirms that the child has outgrown the food allergy and can safely reintroduce the food into the regular diet.

What to Expect at the Food Challenge Clinic

Initially, our expert team conducts an interview with the parents to get a brief history including details about the initial allergic reaction and any accidental exposures to the food or unexplained allergic reactions. The child’s overall health is also assessed. The risks and benefits of the food challenge tests are reviewed, and parental consent to test is obtained.

For the first two hours of the food challenge test at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, food is introduced to the child in small but gradually increasing quantities at 15- to 20-minute intervals. During this time, our expert nursing staff monitors the child’s vital signs. A board-certified UH pediatric allergist is available to evaluate and treat any adverse reactions to the food challenge.

The second two hours of the test are for observation. If the child has no symptoms, the food challenge is considered to be successful, as the child has ingested an entire serving of the offending food. The parent may allow the child to eat the food at home. Also, the doctor’s office will conduct a follow-up call to the parents the next day to monitor any late signs of allergic reaction and to answer any questions.

Homework Before the Food Challenge Clinic

For seven days prior to the Food Challenge Clinic, the child must stop taking antihistamines. Parents must bring the food for the food challenge, making sure it contains the allergen and also appeals to the child’s eating tastes. Parents are asked to bring fun entertainment for the child such as coloring books and videos so time during the Food Challenge Clinic is passed in a relaxed atmosphere.

Getting the Results

The food challenge test is stopped immediately and medications are administered if the child has an allergic reaction with symptoms, including: