Have you ever done an oral food challenge? An oral food challenge is a procedure where the patient eats food in regulated increasing amounts under medical supervision to determine if the patient has a true food allergy. Oral food challenges are not easy. In fact, they are stressful and often scary. After three oral food challenges, I have figured out a couple tips and tricks that work for me to have an experience that is stress-free (or as stress-free as possible).
Note: Always ensure you have your doctor’s permission before trying your allergens, either in an oral food challenge or during oral immunotherapy.
Tip 1: Tell Someone!
Tell at least one friend or family member you trust that you are doing an oral food challenge. Before my oral food challenge, it made me feel less nervous when I talked to other people about it. Often, your close friends or family who know about your adversities with food allergies are good people to hear your fears and worries, especially if they are able to make you laugh or comfort you.
Tip 2: Prepare a Distraction!
Download a TV show or movie (especially one you are currently watching or a comfort show)! Oral food challenges often last a long time, so it’s good to have a distraction. During my last oral food challenge, I downloaded a favorite movie and TV show that distracted me for several hours. The more hilarious or comforting, the better!
Tip 3: Bring Safe Food!
Bring safe food that you are approved to eat during the challenge. Often during an oral food challenge, you are allowed to eat food that is safe for you. Always bring something that you would enjoy eating with your challenge doses. For example, I brought fruit! You can sometimes bring something to have with the food you are challenging as well. When I challenged dairy muffins, I ate them with dairy-free icing to cover the taste!
Tip 4: Remember to Speak Up!
If you feel like you are having an allergic reaction, feel uncomfortable in the room you are challenging in, or are simply anxious, don’t be afraid to speak up! The nurses and doctors are there to help you and make the experience as comfortable as they possibly can. All you have to do is tell them what you need!
Tip 5: It’s Okay to Have to Start Back at Square One
Oral food challenges don’t always go the way you may have planned. For me, I celebrated after two and had to start over after one. It’s okay to get excited if you pass and to be sad or even anxious if you have any reaction. Even if you don’t pass, by doing the oral food challenge you know to continue to avoid that food. Oral food challenges are not easy, but remember, so many people with food allergies are going through the same thing; you’re not alone!