Food Challenges For Children With Allergies

Hayden takes part in a food challenge to identify foods to which he is allergic.

ByABC News
April 24, 2008, 2:08 PM

May 7, 2008 -- Hayden: It's hard becase when I go to birthday parties or restaurants, I can't eat what other people are eating.

Amanda: Hayden was diagnosed first with food allergies when he was five months old, and we found out at that time that he was allergic to milk and eggs, wheat and all -- anything with gluten in it. And as time went on, instead of outgrowing food allergies, we found that he was actually accruing allergies. So he started to become allergic to things that he had been eating previously -- out of the blue he would just become allergic to a piece of chicken or a banana. He's now seven years old, and we are slowly starting to add a few things back in.

Dr. Hauk: A food challenge is the best diagnostic tool that we have available to find out if a child or an adult who has a positive allergy test to a food can eat that food without developing an allergic reaction -- and usually we start with small doses of the food in question, and increase it to a serving size, under close medical observation to assure the patient's safety.

Amanda: Hayden handles food challenges with, I think a little -- I would say 75 percent excitement and hope, and 25 percent fear and anxiety: 'What if I have a reaction?' And we talk very frankly and openly about the reality of -- if he had a reaction, how that would be handled, that we're in a very safe environment. And they give such small doses that the reaction would most likely never get to be life-threatening or very scary, like the reactions he's experienced before.

Dr. Hauk: Unfortunately, skin testing and available blood tests that are commonly used -- they give us an idea if a patient is sensitized to a food -- that means if their test is positive -- but there are frequently cases where the clinical history does not correspond with the allergy testing, and to find out if a patient is truly allergic, or can tolerate a food despite positive allergy tests, you often have to go back to the food challenge to find out that answer.

Amanda: I think it's a triumph, it's very exciting to see him be able to add things back into his diet.