What is an Oral Food Challenge, and how does it work?
Oral food challenges (OFC) have traditionally been used by allergists for diagnostic purposes to determine whether or not a patient is allergic to a specific type of food. In some cases, blood test results and/or skin test results are inconclusive and further testing is necessary to fully determine a diagnosis for a food allergy. OFCs are performed in the office with constant monitoring of vital signs by medical professionals. The protocols for OFCs vary based on the food, but typically they require 3-6 up-doses of the food in question. For the first dose, the patient ingests a very small, microscopic amount of the food. If that dose is tolerated well (i.e. no adverse reactions, consistent vital signs, etc.), then the patient is able to receive the next dose, which will be considerably larger than the first, and so on. Based on how the patient tolerates each dose, and whether or not they reach the end of the protocol without any reactions, the allergist is able to give an accurate diagnosis.
What else can Oral Food Challenges determine?
Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic is unique because some of our select locations participate in food allergy desensitization (SLIT and OIT). Another reason that a patient may be recommended to attempt an OFC, would be following SLIT treatment for food allergies. If a patient reaches maintenance on SLIT, then one of our providers may recommend that he/she attempts an OFC to help safely reintroduce the food and to make sure that the patient is then able to tolerate that food.
Can I attempt more than one Oral Food Challenge?
We often have patients who attempt multiple OFCs throughout their food allergy treatment, but it is important to note that a patient may only attempt one OFC per visit, with only one food at a time.