New study confirms oral food challenges are safe for detecting food allergies

New study confirms oral food challenges are safe for detecting food allergies

Just a little more than a month following the tragic death of a 3-year-old Alabama boy undergoing a baked milk food challenge, a new study published today by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) shows that oral food challenges (OFCs) are extremely safe, with very few people having a reaction of any kind.

An OFC is considered the best way to find out if someone has a food allergy. The test involves a person consuming a very small dose of the suspected allergen by mouth under the supervision of a board-certified allergist to test for a severe reaction.

The study examined the results of 6,327 food challenges. The majority of those tested were under the age of 18. The results state that most OFCs performed were low risk during this study because the patients tested had of one of the following factors: lack of recent reaction, history of tolerance to ingestion, or low levels of specific IgE unless cross-sensitization was suspected.  In total, researchers discovered approximately 2% of those being tested had a severe anaphylactic allergic reaction, and only about 14% had any reaction at all.

Dr. Kwei Akuete, MD, MPH, ACAAI member and lead author of the study explains that “Oral food challenges are a very important tool for anyone who wants to know if they have a food allergy.” He continues to explain that “As OFCs are the ‘gold standard’ for determining if someone is allergic to a food, it is important they are both effective and safe. Our study showed OFCs are safer than prior studies estimated, and that OFCs should be routinely used to help determine if a food allergy exists.”

Diagnosing food allergy is not always simple, but making a proper diagnosis is essential, and can improve the quality of lives. Board certified allergists are specially trained to administer allergy testing and diagnose the results.