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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Kids Eating Favorite Foods Again

As the families of Violet Rivera, Adrian Guzman and Gabby Weaver discovered, eating a food is often the best way to rule out – or overcome – an allergy to it.

“Skin and blood tests are often inaccurate in diagnosing a food allergy,” says food allergist Christina Ciaccio, MD. “An oral food challenge is the only way to know for sure.”

After eight-month-old Violet got hives from eating scrambled eggs, the Dyer, Ind. family was referred to Raoul Wolf, MD, for allergy screening. When Violet tested positive for egg and peanut allergies, she was scheduled for a peanut challenge with Dr. Ciaccio. She was able to tolerate the peanuts and is now eating them three times a week, which will help prevent the development of a severe peanut allergy.

Dr. Ciaccio also hopes Violet will gradually outgrow her egg allergy as she is exposed to the food in baked goods. “Research shows that introducing foods early may help prevent allergy later on,” she said.

To determine if it is safe to proceed with an oral food challenge, Dr. Ciaccio looks at the results of skin testing and bloodwork, as well as the patient’s reaction history.

During the test, which takes place in a controlled setting at Comer Children’s, the patient is closely monitored for an allergic reaction as he or she is given small bits of the food. This is not safe to do at home.

She said the results can be very exciting. “We find that some children have outgrown their allergy or weren’t really allergic to the food, and can have it in their diet now.”

Violet’s mother, Jackie Rivera, said, “It’s a little nerve-wracking to expose your kids to something they may be allergic to, but the oral food challenge really paid off for us."

"It’s a relief to know Violet is not allergic to peanuts and I don’t constantly have to read labels.”
 

No more fear of nuts

Gabby’s parents, William and Chanté Weaver, feared that eating nuts would land her in the hospital. Now, with the help of pediatric allergy experts and new therapies at the University of Chicago Medicine, Gabby is enjoying nuts once again.

Last year, the eight-year-old’s throat would itch when she ate peanuts and her pediatrician recommended she avoid the nuts. Because Gabby had asthma, her parents didn’t want to take any chances. The Southside Chicago family brought her to Nana Fenny, MD, MPH, who administered a skin test for allergies. Because the test was negative for peanuts and tree nuts, Dr. Fenny proposed that Gabby take the peanut challenge, which she passed without any issues.

“We were not nervous at all for her to undergo the peanut challenge because everyone made us feel so comfortable,” William said. “The care Gabby receives at UChicago Medicine is great.”


 

Now nine years old, Adrian was diagnosed at age two with peanut, egg and seafood allergies after a visit to the emergency room for an anaphylactic reaction to nuts.  When his family moved from Pennsylvania to Crown Point, Ind., in 2012, Dr. Wolf began caring for Adrian’s eczema, asthma and food allergies.

In 2014, he failed his first challenge for seafood, but passed for tree nuts (but not peanuts) one year later. His mother, Haidy Oropeza, said the first challenge made her nervous because of the possibility of a reaction, but “Dr. Wolf knew what he was doing and we were in a safe environment under the watchful eyes of good doctors and nurses.”

Bloodwork in November 2015 showed that Adrian could start eating baked goods containing eggs.

His father, Ivan Guzman, said, “It was wonderful to see the smile on his face when he ate his first piece of birthday cake.”