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Open Access Use of emergency backup resources during open food challenges at a pediatric tertiary care center

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Oral food challenge (OFC) remains the criterion standard diagnostic procedure for food allergy. Although the need for OFCs has increased, some allergists may not perform them due to the risk for adverse events and lack of backup resources.


The study aimed to elucidate the frequency of reactions in which emergency backup resources were used and reported on various challenge outcomes at a tertiary pediatric hospital.


We retrospectively reviewed children and young adults (ages, 0‐21 years) who completed OFCs in 2013‐2018 at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. Demographics, atopic history, culprit food, reaction history, and diagnostic testing as well as challenge details and outcomes were collected and analyzed.


A total of 1269 challenges of 812 unique patients ages 5 months to 21 years were reviewed. More than half of challenges were performed in patients with a history of a reaction and positive testing result before challenge. The foods with the highest proportion of allergic outcomes were egg, sesame, and baked egg. More than one-third of challenge reactions were grade 3 or 4 anaphylaxis when using a food-induced anaphylaxis grading scale. Epinephrine was used for reactions in 7.2% of all challenges. Reactions in five challenges (0.4%) prompted utilization of backup emergency resources.


On review of nearly 1300 OFCs, emergency backup resources were rarely used, despite a large proportion of moderate-to-severe reactions. The need for backup resources during food challenges is rare, which suggests that most typical allergy offices are able to treat OFC reactions.

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Keywords: anaphylaxis; emergency; epinephrine; food allergy; oral food challenge; safety; sensitization; systemic reaction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio 2: Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, and 3: Department of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron, Ohio

Publication date: December 1, 2020

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