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Does My Child Still have an Allergy?

Parents often worry about the idea of intentionally exposing their child to a food they have previously reacted to - in some cases with a life-threatening anaphylaxis. Caroline Wood went to Wellington hospital to learn about the ‘oral challenge’ allergy test.

Autumn AllergiesHow do you know whether your child has outgrown their food allergy? In some cases it may be obvious but for many parents it is less than clear-cut.

You may be wondering if your child has outgrown the allergy but you don’t know because you’ve spent the last three years avoiding the food(s) in question. Or perhaps you know your child still has allergies but want to know what will happen if they inadvertently digest a small amount of fih, or eat hazelnut spread? How bad will the reaction be?

Your allergy specialist or doctor may suggest an ‘oral challenge’ test to find ou whether your child still has an allergic reaction to a particular food (or medicine). It is done at hospital under close supervision in case the allergy is still present and a severe reaction occurs.

Tiny amounts of food (or medicine) are given and a child’s reaction is closely monitored. The amount of food given will be increased every 15 minutes until the required portion size is given. The challenge stops if the child has an allergic reaction.

Many parents are understandably anxious about the prospect of feeding their child a possibly life-threatening substance, even in the safe confines of a hospital. But in the 10 years WellingtonMarie Smolnickipaediatric staff nurse Marie Smolnicki has been doing oral challenges, she has never had to give adrenaline to a child, only oral antihistamine.

Marie said: “I try to reassure parents that I have everything in place were something to happen. I show them the bottle of cetirizine (oral antihistamine) and the adrenaline. I put the child’s weight on my hand so if I have to give adrenaline in a hurry, I know exactly how much to give...

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Issue: Autumn 2013