The first of its kind in Illinois, the Food Allergy Program seeks to improve the lives of children and families affected by food allergy. Our experts provide evaluation services and comprehensive treatment, including education on food avoidance and managing allergic reactions.
The Lurie Children's Difference
We take a family-centered approach to care and believe the best results occur when the parents, child and healthcare provider work together, each sharing their area of knowledge to help diagnose and manage the food allergy. Partnering with your family helps us to best understand the types of reactions your child has to certain foods; the relationship between timing and reactions; and your child's personal and family history.
What to Expect
The evaluation of your child for food allergies begins with a thorough history. We ask you to bring a food history, including information about all reactions that have occurred when your child has consumed certain foods. We also assess your child's personal and family history of allergy. Next, we perform a physical examination to identify signs of allergic disease. Often the history is more important than the examination, and it is not necessary for us to see your child while they are having an acute reaction.
Initial food allergy testing is possible through prick skin testing and ImmunoCAP, a blood-based test.The prick allergy skin test is helpful in ruling out an allergy. With a negative test, we can be 95% confident that your child does not have an allergy to the specific food. However, a positive skin test is typically used to help confirm the diagnosis. A positive food allergy skin test is only 50% predictive of an actual allergy and has more importance when there is a history of an adverse reaction to eating the food in question. ImmunoCAP testing involves testing a small amount of blood and is typically used to track food allergies over time. Both methods of testing do not indicate how severe your child’s food allergy is or will be. Currently, there are no tests available to predict severity.
When we suspect a food allergy, avoiding the food is recommended. This is the best way to prevent and avoid reactions. We will provide you with instructions and extensive education regarding food avoidance, which is essential for your child's safety. Support groups can help you assess the day-to-day needs for your child as you begin to implement the necessary changes in your life and household.
We will also teach you how to manage accidental exposures and reactions. We provide an emergency plan and education regarding the use of oral antihistamines and auto-injectable epinephrine. Everyone who has responsibility to care for your child must be instructed on avoidance and emergency medications.
We will follow up with your child on an annual or semi-annual basis. During follow-up visits, we review any new health concerns. Your child's plan for an accidental ingestion will be updated. Testing can confirm if your child has outgrown their food allergy and can be performed by our specialists.
Our integrated team includes physicians, pediatric nurse practitioners and pediatric nursing staff to care for children with food allergies. Institute leadership is provided by Jacqueline A. Pongracic, MD, Head of Allergy and Immunology. Dr. Pongracic is board-certified in allergy and immunology and internal medicine. Christine Szychlinski, APN, NP, is Manager of the Food Allergy Program. She is a board-certified nurse practitioner.
Your support is vital in helping us continue to make a difference in the lives of patients and families. Lurie Children’s relies on philanthropic funding to enhance its programs, services and research for children. To learn more, please e-mail the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation at email@example.com or call 312.227.7500.