Food Allergy Program | Overview
The Food Allergy Comprehensive Education, Treatment and Support Program at Boston Children's Hospital is the the largest provider of pediatric allergy services in the region The program, within the Division of Immunology, is designed to treat all aspects of food allergies, including medical, dietary, social and psychological concerns.
Our approach to food allergies
Our allergy team believes that in order to effectively manage food allergies in children, the child, parents and other caregivers must understand all aspects of managing those allergies, including any related anxieties. To do so, families at the Food Allergy Comprehensive Education, Treatment and Support Program have the opportunity to meet with a variety of Boston Children's experts, each with a unique role in the treatment process.
The team is made up of many different types of care professionals, each with a unique role in treating, educating and supporting our patients and their families, including:
- allergists: specialized doctors who are experts in diagnosing and treating allergic conditions, including food allergy
- dieticians: a registered dietitian (RD) will be available to explain how your child's food allergy will impact his or her diet and teach you how to avoid unsafe foods as well as how to choose safe foods to provide a nutritious and good tasting diet
- social workers: trained, licensed professionals who provide a range of psychosocial services to our patients and their families
- psychologists: works with families at the outset of diagnosis to support a healthy adaption to lifestyle change for patient and family
- nurses: our nurses have decades of experience in food allergy and not only assist allergists in administering tests and procedures in clinic, but also act as the clinic's primary educators, teaching patients and their families about food allergy and its treatments
- allergy technicians
Together the team will ensure its patients receive all the medical and emotional support they need to live healthily and happily.
Why choose Boston Children’s for food allergy care?
In addition to making a multidisciplinary staff available to its patients and families, we offer the convenience of having an entire team at your disposal, all in one place. Unlike many allergy centers, which can require patients to see multiple specialists at different locations and dates, our team sees its patients in one place during one visit.
This "one-stop-destination" allows our patients and their families to receive the best care in less time, making the food allergy—and its treatment—less disruptive to their lives.
But it’s not just patients and their families who benefit from a centralized care environment—our team also thrives in the clinic model. By working side-by-side, the members of our staff have more in-depth communication than they would in a traditional food allergy care setting. This enhanced level of communication leads to more effective and streamlined care models, ensuring that even the most complex cases are expertly managed in less time.
Your visit to the Food Allergy Program
During a visit to our clinic, a meeting with the allergist will likely include a comprehensive history and physical examination to determine the severity of the food allergy. A few things the allergist may want to know include:
- Which foods have caused reactions?
- What symptoms do you notice when you eat or come in contact with a trigger food (e.g., hives or a scratchy throat)?
- How often does the reaction happen?
- How long does it take between eating a particular food and the start of the symptoms?
- Do any family members have allergies or conditions like eczema and asthma?
The allergist also may want to perform a few tests to fully understand the extent of the food allergy. These tests can include:
- Skin Tests: If you suspect that your child is allergic to something specific, skin testing can confirm it. During this test, liquid extracts of the allergens are placed on the top layer of the skin through a pricking device, which scratches the surface of the skin. If the suspected allergen is causing the allergic reaction, a red bump will form where the test was applied. Skin testing yields results faster than blood testing.
- Blood Tests: A measurement of specific IgE antibodies in the blood can help indicate if your child has allergies. In reaction to allergens, the body typically produces IgE antibodies—a high IgE level to a specific food likely means the child has allergies.
- Food Challenges: In some cases, children may have outgrown their allergies. To confirm that your child has outgrown his food allergy, your allergist can arrange a food challenge. During this procedure increasing amounts of the trigger food is given in our hospital under the supervision of a nurse and allergist.