What You Need to Know About Your Child’s First Allergist Appointment

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Food allergies are common in children, yet many children are still undiagnosed and untreated. This is especially the case for children of color or children from low-income families. If you notice a pattern of your child having a physical reaction after eating certain foods, your child may have a food allergy or intolerance.

Read our post on recognizing the signs and symptoms of food allergy.

An allergist is a specialist who can help diagnose and manage a food allergy, among other types of allergies. This type of physician will be able to help you with food allergies better than a primary care physician.

What Will the Visit Be Like?

You and your child might be nervous about the first visit, so knowing what to expect can help take away some of the anxiety. Just like a visit to any kind of medical provider, you’ll need to provide information about your child. In this case, the doctor will want to know about potential allergy symptoms you’ve noticed, about your child’s health and about family medical history. You’ll probably be asked to identify when you first started noticing the symptoms and other details about your child’s food reactions.

Your doctor will likely perform a test to see if your child has a food allergy and to identify the food source. Most likely, the doctor will carry out a skin prick test to try to diagnose a food allergy. The doctor will prick a miniscule amount of an allergen in liquid form onto your child’s skin on the back or arm. If your child is allergic, they should experience a raised bump where the doctor pricked that specific allergen. The test takes about a half hour to complete.

In some cases, the doctor won’t want to carry out a skin test. For example, this might happen if your child has sensitive skin. Instead, the doctor can order a blood test, which takes longer to receive results.

If your doctor makes a diagnosis of a food allergy, they will work with you to create a treatment plan. In general, a doctor will recommend that your child avoids the allergen and carries epinephrine auto-injectors if there is a risk of anaphylaxis.

How to Prepare for Your Visit

You can take steps in advance that will help your visit go more smoothly and improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. The main way to prepare for an allergist visit is to pay attention to your child’s food reactions leading up to the visit and to make note of your experiences so far. For example, you’ll make the process easier if you take note of things like:

  • ·When you started noticing symptoms

  • How long the symptoms lasted

  • What symptoms you noticed

  • The severity of the symptoms

  • Whether any actions, such as giving medication, affected the symptoms

  • Whether you have a family history of food allergies

Also, it will be very helpful to your doctor if you keep a food diary. Take note of symptoms you notice and which foods your child ate before those symptoms emerged. A food diary can help identify patterns, so you can see a common thread that consistently causes a reaction.

Ask your doctor’s office about ways to prepare for your visit as well. Before testing, your child may be asked to avoid eating, drinking and taking certain medications such as antihistamines for a certain amount of time.

A visit to an allergist shouldn’t feel intimidating. Instead, it’s an opportunity to see if your child has an allergy. If so, it’s important to manage the allergy for your child’s health and safety.