Accurate Allergy Diagnostic Challenge Test
A challenge, or challenge test, is a highly accurate diagnostic test for allergies that is sometimes performed even after a skin prick and blood tests. For example, our allergists may order the test to determine if a patient has truly outgrown a food allergy.
A challenge consists of a minimal amount of an allergen being inhaled or taken by mouth little by little. Following each dose, a physician will observe you and watch for any signs of a reaction. If there are no symptoms, you will gradually receive increasingly larger doses. However, if you show any signs of a reaction, your physician will stop the challenge.
Challenges are done mostly with potential food or medication allergies. It is crucial that a physician with specialized training and experience, such as an allergist, supervise the challenge in case a reaction occurs.
What A Challenge Test Is
A challenge test is a type of allergy test conducted and supervised by an allergist or physician. It involves giving a patient a small amount of allergen bit by bit, typically by mouth. It’s most commonly used when testing against food allergies.
Challenge tests are done one allergen at a time, completed under close medical supervision, and are safe for children and adults alike.
A patient is introduced to a specific medication or food in increasingly larger amounts during the challenge test. This progression tests their tolerance to the allergen. The medical professional will carefully observe the patient for a reaction or symptoms as they introduce additional quantities of the allergen to the patient’s system. If any symptoms present, the doctor or allergist stops the test at once and provides any necessary medical intervention immediately.
Conditions a Challenge Test Can Diagnose
The primary use of a challenge test is to test for food or medication allergies when other forms of allergy testing have not produced conclusive results. They are, however, one of the most effective ways to test for either food or medication allergies.
A challenge test can also be a useful diagnostic tool for diagnosing allergies in young children who may be averse to more invasive testing procedures or needles. Finally, a challenge test is also often used to assess whether or not older children or adults have outgrown a pre-existing allergy diagnosed earlier in life.
Possible Side Effects of a Challenge Test
A challenge test can trigger side effects, some of which under rare circumstances can be serious. That is why these tests are completed under close medical supervision.
Patients who undergo a challenge test for an allergy can experience:
- Other signs of an allergic reaction
Under most circumstances, these reactions are mild and do not cause significant distress to a patient. In rare situations, a patient may experience a severe reaction, including anaphylaxis.
Signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Feeling of lightheadedness
- Respiratory difficulties
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Becoming confused or anxious
- Collapsing or losing consciousness
The supervising medical professional can immediately and effectively address any side effect that a patient might experience due to a challenge test. Patients should work in close consultation with their doctor to discuss any anxieties about a challenge test.