Your child’s health: Food allergy challenge

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CLEVELAND - School is just starting for Ava Ford, 7, and Leah Lawrence, 5, and they are already taking a test.

Both girls are taking a food challenge.

Dr. Leigh Ann Kerns is a pediatric allergist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital who oversees the food challenge. "We do a food challenge when we think that a child is not allergic to a food or when a child may be outgrowing a food allergy. So, we determine that a child qualifies for a food challenge by a combination of skin testing and blood testing," Dr. Kerns said.

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Ava has a peanut allergy and Leah is allergic to eggs. Her challenge is to see if she can tolerate baked goods with eggs in them.

Kelly Lawrence says their family is allergy free. "We do a lot of baking. So, every cupcake, every brownie, waffles, pancakes -- you name it -- no eggs. The proteins are different in baked goods than they are in straight eggs, so we are hoping that she has outgrown that egg allergy," Leah’s mom said.

The food challenge starts with just a small amount of food given to the patient and medicine is ready if there is any allergic reaction. "As long as the child is feeling fine and we don't see any signs of a reaction on the skin or with breathing, or anything else that the child reports, we go ahead a give a slightly bigger piece.

Usually we do escalating doses over 2 to 2 ½ hours and we often monitor the child for up to two hours after to make sure there is no reaction after we have completed the challenge,” Dr. Kerns added.

Ava’s tongue started to itch after she was given a small amount of peanut butter and the challenge was stopped. But, Leah seemed to tolerate the cupcake just fine.

But, even if the child doesn't pass the food challenge test, something is learned. Caroline Ford said the food challenge was worthwhile for Ava. “We realized that she still can't have peanuts, but she did not stop breathing. Her throat hurt, but it didn't swell up. So, I think we still know more about this crazy allergy. I think the more information, the better,” she said.

Dr. Kerns said recent studies have shown that children can outgrow allergies even into their adolescent and young adult years.

The Northeast Ohio Food Allergy Network was founded to help families with food allergies by providing education, support and advocacy work. The group is pushing for epi-pens to be on all ambulances. More information can be found on the website.

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