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Study shows oral food challenges are safe for diagnosing food allergies

The best way to find out if someone has a food allergy is through an oral food challenge (OFC) where the person is given a very small dose of the food by mouth under the supervision of a board-certified allergist to test for a severe reaction.  A new study shows that OFCs are extremely safe, with very few people having a reaction of any kind.

The majority of those tested were under the age of 18. Researchers found about 2 percent of those being tested had a severe allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, and only about 14 percent had any reaction at all.

“Food challenges improve the quality of life for people with food allergies, even if they are positive,” said allergist Carla Davis, MD, ACAAI member and study senior author. “When an OFC is delayed, sometimes people unnecessarily cut certain foods out of their diet, and this has been shown to lead to increases in health costs to the patient. A delay risks problems with nutrition, especially for children. It’s important to have an accurate diagnosis of food allergy so an allergist can make a clear recommendation as to what foods you need to keep out of your diet. And if no allergy exists, that clears the way to reintroduce foods you may have thought were off-limits.”

Diagnosing food allergy is not always simple, but the need to make a proper diagnosis is very important.

Allergists are specially trained to administer allergy testing and diagnose the results. They can then tailor a plan specific to your allergies.

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