When your child (or you) has food allergies, visits to a board-certified allergist become part of your annual routine. Making sure you head into the appointment prepared can help you maximize your time with this important member of your food allergy management team. The following tips can help you get on the right track.
Food Allergy Journal
Your doctor will be using a combination of testing, a physical exam, and medical history to assess your child’s allergies. Being able to share any observed potential reactions or other experiences will be useful, whether this is your first visit or your hundredth. Get yourself a notebook and jot down any pertinent information between visits, include photos you may have taken of suspected skin responses. The more details you jot down, the better. Include a description of the reaction and everything your child had to eat or drink, or otherwise came in contact with prior to noticing those symptoms. Also include how you treated the suspected allergic response and any medical interventions taken by a healthcare provider. Bring your notebook with you to your appointments. It’ll help you zero in on the info your doctor needs to gather quickly. (Note: If you have suspected reactions between visits, call your doctor’s office at that time! Yes, you should still include it in your journal; but don’t put off the conversation about exposure to existing or potential new allergies.)
List of Questions
If you’re like most families dealing with chronic health issues, you’ve probably read more than your fair share of reports and articles on current research, testing alternatives, and new products. That’s awesome. As you’re reading, jot down any questions you may have and bring them with you to your annual visit. Even better, keep a running list of them in a dedicated space in your food allergy journal.
If your child is taking any medications on a regular basis, speak to your doctor’s office when you make the appointment about whether any of those medications could impact allergy testing planned for the appointment. If, for example, your child is taking a daily antihistamine to manage environmental allergies, it could interfere with skin testing. You don’t want to just stop taking it, however. Please speak to your doctor first. The allergist can advise you as to what meds can be safely paused, and which cannot, as well as any other testing options that can be pursued while those medications are being taken.
Dress for Success
You don’t need to pull out your best attire to impress the allergist. You do need to go in assuming that your child might be tested while at the office, however, and have him or her dressed to ease the process. This means comfortable clothing that makes it easy for the medical team to access the forearm or back. In other words, avoid one-piece outfits and long-shirt sleeves that can’t be rolled up easily.
As with any doctor’s appointment, you may find yourself with some time to kill in the waiting room. If the allergist opts to perform skin testing during the appointment, there will also be additional waiting in the space between when the test is administered and when the doctor can evaluate the test site to determine any positive or negative results. Coming to the appointment armed with some of your child’s favorite toys or activities will help ease this process. Downloading a new episode of your child’s favorite cartoon or a favorite movie is worth considering, too.
Piles of Paperwork
If your child is school-aged, you’ve got a handful of paperwork for the doctor to fill out. Your school likely requires you to provide an allergy action plan and paperwork permitting your student to keep any medication on campus during the school year. Your doctor will need to complete and sign these forms before the start of the school year.
What Not to Bring
Food. Parents of young children know that small snacks and finger food can provide ample distraction for bored tots. Those treats, however, are not a good option for this visit. Many doctors’ offices do not permit food or drink in the waiting room for a variety of reasons. Food allergies are among those reasons. The food you bring is safe for your child, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cause an issue for the allergic child playing blocks in the corner with your son or daughter. If your child’s visit includes an in-office oral challenge, you may be asked to bring certain foods with you to the appointment. That’s fine. Just keep them in your bag until the doctor is ready to start the food trial.