Diagnosis of Food Allergy in Children: Toward a Standardization of Food Challenge

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Adverse reactions to food represent a common complaint in childhood; however, only a small proportion of children have proven clinically relevant food allergy. The foods most commonly involved in food allergy are cow's milk, hen's eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seeds, soy, wheat, fish, and crustaceans. The diagnostic workup of suspected food allergy includes the patient's history, skin prick testing, the measurement of food-specific immunoglobulin E antibodies, and, more recently, the atopy patch test. Because none of these parameters can accurately predict tolerance, the gold standard for diagnosing food allergy is still the double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge. Although numerous efforts have been made to standardize the procedure, there is a need for improvement. This review presents the current status of the indication and performance of controlled oral food challenges in children with suspected food-related symptoms. It covers aspects of indications and contraindications, blinding, diet before the challenge, the practical performance, the handling of medication, the interpretation of test results, suitable locations for testing, safety considerations, and the procedure after a period of avoidance. Efforts to standardize oral food challenges to achieve the best possible decision on a diet are important to avoid an unnecessary diet that may be harmful to the child.

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