What is a Challenge Test?

An allergist or doctor will run and watch over a challenge test, which is a type of allergy test  done by giving a small amount of the allergen to the patient bit by bit, usually by mouth. Most of the time, it’s used to test for food allergies.

Challenge tests are safe for both children and adults because they are done one allergen at a time and are closely watched by a doctor.

During a challenge test, a patient is given a certain drug or food in increasingly larger amounts. This test shows how well they can handle the allergen. As the doctor gives the patient more of the allergen, he or she will keep a close eye on the person to see if there is a reaction or other symptoms. If any symptoms show up, the doctor or allergist stops the test immediately and provides any necessary medical intervention.

Conditions a Challenge Test Can Diagnose

The main purpose of a challenge test is to find out if someone is allergic to food or medicine when other allergy tests haven’t given clear answers. They are, however, one of the best ways to find out if someone is allergic to food or medicine.

A challenge test can also be a good way to find out if a young child has an allergy, especially if they don’t like more invasive tests or needles. Lastly, a challenge test is often used to see if an allergy that was found in a younger child or adult has gone away now that the child or adult is older.

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. 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.

Patients who undergo a challenge test for an allergy can experience:
  • Flushing
  • Hives or Itching
  • Other signs of an allergic reaction

Signs of anaphylaxis include:
  • Feeling of lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Collapsing or losing consciousness
  • Becoming confused or anxious

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.