“Gold standard” food allergy test faces implementation barriers that targeted educational strategies may address
A new Canadian study concludes that the procedure known as an oral food challenge (OFC), considered the “gold standard” of food allergy testing, faces several barriers preventing its widespread implementation.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, surveyed Canadian allergists, pediatricians, and parents to identify barriers to, and possible enablers of offering or participating in OFCs.
OFCs are used to accurately diagnose a food allergy or to determine if an individual with a known food allergy is no longer allergic. The procedure involves having a patient eat small but increasing amounts of food under medical supervision, then monitoring the patient for an allergic reaction.
“Nearly 97% of the allergists surveyed agreed that there was a need to conduct more OFCs both in the hospital setting and in community practices across Canada,” says AllerGen investigator Dr. Edmond S. Chan, who led the research.
“Among allergists, the main barriers to performing OFCs were: lack of time, since challenges may take four to six hours to complete; and a lack of resources, including inadequate office space and the need for trained staff to observe the patient for several hours following the challenge.”
Among parents of children with food allergies, the main barriers to participating in OFCs were fear and anxiety about a child potentially experiencing an allergic reaction during the procedure.
The study concluded that multiple barriers currently prevent the widespread use of OFCs; however, efforts targeting OFC training for allergists, education for pediatricians, psychosocial support for parents, as well as the development of standardized guidelines with clinican and parent input are likely to increase OFC acceptance.