Preparing For A Food Challenge

It’s hard to believe we’ve come this far.  Tomorrow, N will have a food challenge for the very first detected food allergy!  Tonight I’ll be cooking some oatmeal to take to his fourth food challenge.  In January he had a soy challenge, the end of February he did a baked egg challenge, and in June he had a cherry challenge.  I know the doctors say there is no correlation between what a pregnant woman eats and what their child is allergic to, but I ate oatmeal AT LEAST once a day, sometimes two.  I love the stuff, and I’m praying that he passes the challenge-so he has more food options and so he can enjoy such a healthy food.

I feel like an old pro with this being our fourth challenge, but I have to admit I’m still nervous.  N’s original reaction to oat was a come-and-go rash on his belly with itching, and he never had hives….so, I’m hopeful that tomorrow will go well.  Here’s how we prepare for a food challenge….

1.  No anti-histamines.  N isn’t allowed to have any anti-histamines (like Benadryl) within the four days before the challenge.  Check with your own doctor on their rules on this.  We are super careful with his food (like always!) so he doesn’t have any weird reactions that require Benadryl.  We don’t try any new products that appear to be safe in the 4 days before the challenge, but that’s just our thoughts.

2.  Pack the food to be challenged.  We’ve done Silk Vanilla Soy Milk, eggs baked in muffins, fresh cherries, and tonight I’ll make oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar and a bit of Earth Balance soy free margarine.  I’m doing instant oatmeal for two reasons:  I think it’s mushy and I’m worried about cross contamination with nuts….and because I already have 2 canisters of old-fashioned oats in the cabinet.  Your doctor may give you specific items to bring for a challenge, so just ask if you’re not sure.

3.  Pack some entertainment.  We usually take a portable DVD player, the iPad, and books.  I let my son pick what movie/DVD he wants to watch so that he’s happy.  Challenges typically take 2-4 hours so movies are good.

With his DVD player at his soy challenge

With his DVD player at his soy challenge

4.  No food/drink after midnight.  Our doctor says no food or drink after midnight the night before the challenge.  Check with your doctor for their rules on this.

5.  Pack a lunch.  After the challenge your child will most likely be hungry, so pack a favorite lunch or plan to go to a safe restaurant to fill that hungry tummy.

What should you expect during a food challenge?  Here’s some basics from our past 3 challenges:

*An initial check of vitals

*Increasing amounts of food/liquid every 15 minutes

First bite at baked egg challenge

First bite at baked egg challenge

*A check of vitals every 15 minutes before they eat the next portion

*Staying in the same room during the challenge (other than bathroom breaks as needed)

*Waiting after the last portion is eating-this may vary from 30 minutes to an hour

*Be prepared to be with your child the rest of the day.  We have always been advised to be aware of a possible reaction for 6 hours past the last portion ingested.

Here are a few more tips to make the day go smooth….

*Prepare your child by talking to them about what will happen.  It’s up to you whether to warn them that an Epi-Pen shot is possible if things don’t go well.

*Ask to rub the allergen on an arm first to see if there is a contact reaction-this can save some time and agony!

*Take your spouse or supportive friend/family member.  Extra support is never a bad thing!

*Leave siblings at home, especially young ones.  You’ll need to focus on your child doing the challenge, not be distracted by entertaining your other children or having to change diapers.

*Ask questions before, during, and after if you’re unsure about something.

*Stay calm.  You’re in a monitored environment with trained professionals, so no need to freak out and pass that anxiety to your child.

*Remember, I’m not your doctor, but I can share experiences.  Talk to your allergist for the final word in your situation, and don’t use this blog post as medical advice.

*Never do a food challenge at home-it’s just not wise!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures from a previous food challenge…..He was so proud to take his paper mustache from story time the day before…

MustacheEggChallengeHe’s grown up so much since then!

Let’s hear from you food allergy moms….what are your thoughts or tips on food challenges?  

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2 thoughts on “Preparing For A Food Challenge

  1. Great tips! Interesting, as I have NOT been advised “to be aware of a possible reaction for 6 hours past the last portion ingested”. I’m a little frustrated that my allergist did not remind me of this, as it definitely makes sense. My son actually did not pass his baked egg challenge a few weeks ago, so I believe she should have reminded me of this!

    • So sorry to hear that your son didn’t pass his baked egg challenge 😦 I know the feeling. I’m surprised they didn’t mention watching him for recurrent reaction. I was a nervous wreck the day N didn’t pass his baked egg challenge for fear of the symptoms returning. Thankfully he was fine and the epinephrine had taken care of it, but allergies are so uncertain so there was definitely a chance.

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