My Experience With Food Challenges
I’ve done six food challenges in my life, and thankfully four of them have been successful. To back up a bit, you might be wondering what a “food challenge” is. A food challenge is where you eat something that you are/had previously been allergic to, to test if you are still allergic to that food. However when you are told to eat something that you have been avoiding your whole life, it can be a pretty stressful experience. I have food allergies to milk, eggs, and now some peanuts and tree nuts and I have tested baked milk (because the reaction is a “lesser” reaction when the protein is baked), almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts and pistachios. My first challenge was when I was nine years old and I tested baked milk. My numbers for being allergic to milk had been going down, and because it was baked, my doctor was confident I would have little to no reaction. Let’s just say it did not go as expected and it resulted in two epi-pens. That reaction really scared me, even though after a few hours I was fine, and it took several years for me to build my confidence to try to test another food. The next food challenge I did was when I was thirteen and I tested almonds, once again my doctor told me I had barely any numbers for almonds and I should be fine. This time, I had no reaction and now I could eat almonds! Even though I didn’t have a reaction, it was a hard experience because I was so nervous about eating this thing that had been a poison to me for years! My mom was really my advocate through the whole process and kept asking about my numbers and which nuts to test, and she kept reminding me that if I just tested it once and it went well, I could eat that nut for the rest of my life! That pushed me forward and about a year later I tested four nuts in a month. I tested walnuts, no reaction. I tested pecans, no reaction. I tested hazelnuts, no reaction. And then, I tested pistachios. At this point I was feeling more confident about trying different nuts because they had been going well and all my numbers were pretty low, but then pistachios resulted in an epi-pen and a whole lot of benadryl. That shocked me and scared me a little bit, but the important takeaway from the whole food challenge experience is… is it okay to just try? If the doctor is encouraging you, if your family members are encouraging you, this challenge could change your life! Please be cautious with what you try when it comes to food allergies, and please follow your doctor's advice and test safely. It’s a big choice, but it's a choice that could impact your life forever.