Background: Food allergens are often accused of causing numerous ailments. This is particularly true for the pediatric population, where the incidence of food allergy is four times as high as in adults. As food challenges may provoke life-threatening reactions, intensive safety measures need to be taken during provocation, and prompt medical intervention may become necessary.
Methods: We retrospectively evaluated 349 oral challenges in 204 children with atopic dermatitis, looking for criteria to help the physician decide which patients need medical intervention.
Results: A total of 178 (51%) oral food challenges with the four allergens (cow's milk [CM], hen's egg [HE], wheat, and soy) showed a positive clinical reaction. Of these, 120 (67%) needed medical intervention. In 42 (35%) cases, intervention was parenteral, and oral medication was given in 78 (65%) cases. There was a strong positive correlation (90%) between the level of specific IgE and the need for medical intervention (≥17.50 kU/l for CM, wheat, and soy; ≥3.50 kU/l for HE). Patient history of food allergy was an indicator of the need for medical intervention (P=0.01). A positive patient history and a high level of specific IgE were significantly (P=0.003) associated with parenteral medication in HE.
Conclusions: Patient history of food allergy is a reliable indicator of the need for medical intervention in the cases of CM, wheat, and soy regardless of the level of specific IgE. With HE, a positive patient history plus a high level of specific IgE significantly indicates the need for parenteral medication. On the basis of our results, we recommend establishing intravenous access in children with a level of specific IgE of ≥17.50 kU/l (CAP class 4) to CM and wheat, or with specific IgE of ≥3.50 kU/l (CAP class 3) to HE.