There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to food allergy testing for children. When you are looking for food allergy testing for your child, there are a few things you should know.
Where can I get my child a food allergy test?
- Food allergies and food sensitivities are VASTLY different. Sensitivities are uncomfortable. Food allergies are deadly. Any at-home test is not suitable for your child if you suspect food allergies.
- Only a medical professional can perform an accurate food allergy test. In order to receive accurate results, your medical professional will run more than one test as the accuracy is increased with 2 methods of testing.
- Your child’s food allergies can adapt and reactions can accelerate after each exposure. Meaning: if you saw a reaction from a PB sandwich twice, do not try to diagnose yourself by feeding your child PB again. As with my daughter, each exposure led us closer to anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is extremely dangerous and can lead to brain damage or death.
If you have any suspicion your child has food allergies, immediately contact your primary doctor or make an appointment with a pediatric allergist. Keep in mind, many allergists book out 3 months at a time, sadly. Be sure to get on their books! If you end up finding another doctor that can see you prior to that scheduled time, you can always cancel the appointment. I hate this aspect of allergy testing, but it seems to be the norm. Be sure to call back and check for any cancelations. I called every week and was able to get in a month earlier than scheduled.
If you have successfully made an appointment, be sure to follow the doctor’s instructions when it comes to medication. The doctor will give you a specific date range during which your child cannot take any antihistamines/allergy medication. Set an alarm on your phone! If you do not follow this guideline, the medical provider cannot perform the allergy tests. Be prepared for a week without allergy medication if your child takes it regularly like mine. Be sure to avoid the suspected allergens as your child’s immune response to allergens will be weaker due to the lack of medication. Also, expect a cranky, snotty child. Sorry.
What happens at a food allergy test?
At our allergy testing appointment, two tests were administered after chatting about medical history and exposure. Your doctor may conduct additional tests. To find out about the other types of food allergy testing, visit the link here!
- The first test will be a skin prick test. This is not particularly fun for little ones as they will receive several pinpricks on their back that expose them to specific allergens. Before the nurse uses the pins, they will use a pen or Sharpie to notate the testing spots on their back. Next comes the actual skin pricks. In all honestly, both of my girls did cry a bit but nothing they could not get through. I recommend bringing a distraction such as an iPad. If possible, you might want to bring along another adult to help you during this process as there is a period of time the child must remain still with the allergen oils on their back. After the allotted time, the doctor (and most likely a nurse) will come in to record the results. After the results are read, the oils will be wiped off and hydrocortisone will be applied. Keep in mind, if your child had a large reaction, you might see a welt or two for a longer period of time after the test.
- To confirm the skin prick test, your doctor will also order a blood test for your child. For many parents, this may be the first blood draw for your child. It is almost all over and you got this! I highly recommend going to a pediatric lab for this portion of the test. We have one specific lab at our local Children’s hospital I will always use. Blood draws on children require a patient and accurate phlebotomist! Also, at many pediatric hospitals and labs, there is a Child-Life specialist available to help with some distractions. Expect some tears from younger ones, but is usually short-lived. However, I want to be completely open and honest with you…you may end up crying a bit too.
OKAY. So, you may be freaking out about right now. “WHY would I put my child through all that?!?” My answer is: because food allergies are very dangerous. Children that go into anaphylactic shock are at risk for brain damage or death. It all really sucks. It does. However, if your child really does have a food allergy, just avoiding is not enough. You need to learn life-saving techniques and get the right tools (including epinephrine) to keep your child safe. Food allergy testing for a child is not necessarily fun, but it is essential. One day of tears is better than seeing your kiddo in a hospital bed. Plan for some fun activities on the evening of testing and try to find some time for yourself to work through everything. After going through multiple tests, blood draws, and endoscopes for my children, I have learned it doesn’t really ever get easier. You just tend to remember it is temporary and is for the greater good.
Food allergies are tough but so are you.
Any more questions about food allergy testing for your child? Ask away! Just keep in mind, that I am not a medical professional. Always refer to your doctor for medical advice.
You might also want to read: Preparing your Child for an Endoscope.
Please note: I am not a medical professional. Please consult a member of your child’s healthcare team for information on food allergy testing. NEVER conduct a food allergy test without a medical professional.