Narrator: Food challenges are the gold standard of allergy testing and the only direct method of evaluating if a person is truly allergic to a specific food. During a food challenge, a person starts by eating a small amount of the suspected food. The patient then receives increasing amounts of the food every 15-30 minutes until a normal meal size portion is eaten or the challenge is stopped because of symptoms or a reaction.

On average a food challenge takes 2-4 hours to complete. Patients are monitored closely during a challenge, and the challenge is stopped if there is any sign of an allergic reaction. Since food challenges involve potentially severe allergic reactions, they should be done only under close supervision of health professionals who have been trained in the proper administration of a food challenge. At National Jewish Health we see many patients who have seriously restricted their diets because of concerns about food allergies and blood tests that suggested allergies to many foods. In some cases the dietary restrictions can make it difficult to obtain adequate nutrition. This is especially common among patients with atopic dermatitis or eczema.

We conduct many food challenges to see if children can broaden their diet and are often successful at finding more foods a child can eat. Five year old Blake, shown in this video with his mother Becky, recently underwent several food challenges during his stay at the National Jewish Health Pediatric Day Program. The Day Program is a unique comprehensive program for evaluation of particularly difficult cases. Patients visit National Jewish Health for an average of two weeks as an outpatient, during which they have comprehensive evaluation, education and treatment for atopic dermatitis, asthma, allergies and other diseases we treat.

Blake passed his corn food challenge and, in the following days, he went on to pass more than a dozen food challenges even though blood tests had indicated that he may have been allergic to those foods. At home in Minnesota, he was able to enjoy a Thanksgiving Feast for the first time in several years.