You've likely heard the term "oral food challenge" mentioned by your allergist or in online food allergy support groups. But if you haven't, here's a quick primer from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on oral food challenges:
What is an oral food challenge?
An oral food challenge (OFC), or feeding test, is a medical procedure in which a food is eaten slowly, in gradually increasing amounts, under medical supervision, to accurately diagnose or rule out a true food allergy.
What are the reasons to perform an OFC?
OFCs are usually done when a careful medical history and allergy tests, such as skin and blood tests, are inconclusive. The OFC is a more definitive test because it will show whether the food ingested produces no symptoms or triggers a reaction.
Oral Food Challenge (OFC) Anxiety and Worry:
Given that during oral food challenges you are eating a food that you may potentially be allergic to or have previously been allergic to, it's no surprise that you may feel anxious and worried in anticipation of that appointment - many do. Our mind wants to keep us safe, so an oral food challenge can feel like a potential threat to our mind when we think about it. Therefore, it's normal and appropriate to experience anxiety about oral food challenges. However, it's important to remember that you don't need to interpret that anxiety to mean that the oral food challenge will result in the worst case scenario.
What Helps OFC Anxiety and Worry?
When you experience increased anticipatory anxiety - that is, anxiety about a future event, it can be helpful to prepare for the event in order to to increase readiness and decrease fear.
Here is a brief list of ways to prepare ahead of time for your or your child's oral food challenge:
Additional Resources and Tips to Help Manage OFC Anxiety
Be sure to listen to Episode 14 of Exploring Food Allergy Families called, "Tips for Managing Oral Food Challenge Anxiety & Worry". In this episode, fellow allergy-informed therapist Fawn McNeil-Haber, PhD and I discuss helpful strategies for navigating oral food challenges. We offer preparation tips and guidance on navigating anxiety and mindsets prior to and during the food challenge. Here are specific topics we explore in this episode:
You can listen via your favorite podcast app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss future episodes!
ORAL FOOD CHALLENGE PREPARATION WORKSHEETS:
Check out these Oral Food Challenge worksheets which help prepare before the appointment, offer helpful reminders for the day of, and prompts for processing after the food challenge. (There are separate worksheets for kids and teens/adults). Also check out this post on a post-anaphylaxis tool known as T.R.A.C.E, which is a compass guiding you back to confidence after allergic reactions.
You can find these worksheets on the Therapeutic Worksheets page here on the Food Allergy Counselor website.
Hopefully reading this and checking out the podcast, worksheets and other resources offers you some reassurance that oral food challenge-related anxiety is normal and manageable. Don't hesitate to reach out and let me know if these tips have helped you or your patients, or to share tips of your own! And if you're looking for an allergy-informed therapist in your state (many of whom provide telehealth to residents of their state), visit the Food Allergy Counselor Directory.
You can connect with me on Twitter (@TherapistTamara and @FACounselor), Instagram (@TherapistTamara & @FoodAllergyCounselor) and Facebook (@FoodAllergyCounselor and @TamaraHubbardLCPC).
Thanks for reading!
If you've ever experienced an allergic reaction, or witnessed your child experiencing one, then you're likely familiar with how it can feel afterwards - once the reaction is over. These emotions and thoughts may include feelings such as fear, worry, sadness, or even guilt, and explorations to try and understand what happened in order to prevent it from happening again.
For some, they may process through this phase quickly, while others take longer. Some may even find themselves becoming stuck along the way, unable to find their way back to navigating food allergies confidently.
New podcast episode on this topic!
In episode 9 of the Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast, I'm joined by fellow allergy-informed clinician, psychologist Fawn McNeil-Haber, PhD.
Together, we explore common feelings and thoughts that many may feel for days, weeks or even months after a reaction. We explore how those emotional reactions may lead to common behavioral changes and actions. Additionally, we share strategies to help people through this while on the journey back to confidently managing food allergies. [These tips may be helpful for parents and allergic kids, teens, and adults].
Follow FAC on Twitter or Instagram, or on Facebook on the Food Allergy Counselor Directory page to get updates on the FAC Directory, blog or resources. And connect with FAC creator Tamara on Twitter or Instagram!
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