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Ask The Allergy Chef: Experimenting on Kids

Ask The Allergy Chef: Do diagnostic food challenges fall under experimenting on people?

    Hi. I’ve heard you talk a lot about not experimenting on people. Do diagnostic food challenges fall under experimenting on people?

    Great question. It depends.

    If a 3 year old tests as allergic to peanuts via blood and skin tests, I would not test that. To do so is an experiment. You have two separate tests giving you a red light, and the child is too young to give fully informed consent.

    If a 3 year old tests allergic to 150 different foods and there’s quite literally nothing to eat, and we either have to find safe food or have the child fed by tube, no, it’s not an experiment. It’s a challenge to prove the diagnosis is correct, and to determine if a tube is necessary. HOWEVER. If after 10 – 20 trials the child reacts every time, in my opinion, trials should be stopped and the tube should be inserted. Why? Because now we’re encroaching on torture of a child who can’t fully consent or communicate what’s going on. The child is proving that the tests were right and putting them through more harm can cause long term psychological damage.

    If a 3 year old tests as allergic to milk and chicken, my vote is to trust the test, and avoid the foods. When the child is old enough to provide FULLY informed consent, let them choose if they’d like to challenge those foods.

    The thing is, it’s about doing something TO someone, or WITH someone. Most people don’t want something done to them, without their consent. Why should children not be afforded that same right? As someone who was undiagnosed for over 20 years, let me tell you, food was pain and torture. I have first hand knowledge of what some of these kids are going through, and the difference is, they can’t tell you this: It hurts like hell.

    At the end of the day, you’ll have to do what’s right for you. Some people need to have their kids go through this process for one reason or another. Personally, I find it’s just easier to avoid the food. However, I also recognize that I have an incredibly unique point of view and a skill set to back up that choice.

    Interestingly, I’ve asked a lot of people with food allergies about this type of thing. The majority wish they hadn’t been put through food challenges as a child. They were exhausted by the yearly tests and the false hope their parents would have, then they’d feel like a failure because they didn’t “pass the test”. I just don’t see a reason to put kids through this sort of thing.

    Again, the needs of your child will greatly determine what you do to them now, versus with them later. Here’s an article that might give you more to think about.

    Wishing you all the best on this.
    ~The Allergy Chef

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