Food allergies can cause unpleasant, and sometimes, life-threatening reactions that may have you second-guessing everything you eat. Our food allergy specialists put you back in control. At Allegheny Health Network (AHN), we accurately diagnose the problem and offer the latest treatments to get you peace of mind.
Food allergy testing and treatment at AHN: Why choose us?
If you or your child is living with severe food allergies, care at AHN can be life-changing. We offer accurate diagnoses and deliver effective treatments that stop severe allergic reactions. Many of our patients are delighted with the freedom that comes from being able to eat at restaurants and participate in social events they once had to avoid.
Highlights of our program include:
- Highly skilled doctors: Our allergists completed additional training (fellowships) in allergy care. This advanced knowledge helps us consistently deliver exceptional care, even for rare food allergies, such as eosinophilic esophagitis.
- Testing for young children: AHN is one of few programs in Pittsburgh performing food allergy testing in infants. We safely test children as young as 4 months old. This information helps parents lower their child’s risk for allergic reactions.
- Innovative treatments: AHN was one of the first programs in the Pittsburgh area offering oral immunotherapy for food allergies. This treatment gives children and young adults an added layer of protection against life-threatening allergic reactions to peanuts and other severe food allergies.
Food allergies we treat
We treat all food allergies including:
- Milk and dairy products
- Peanuts and tree nuts
- Shellfish and other types
Our food allergy tests
Food allergies cause symptoms such as rashes, swelling, and vomiting. But symptoms often vary, even among people who are allergic to the same foods. The best way to confirm an allergy is through allergy testing in a dedicated program like ours.
But symptoms are not the only reason to consider allergy testing. Young children with skin conditions such as eczema face a higher risk of food allergies. The risk also rises if an older sibling has a food allergy. Testing provides answers that may help your child avoid allergic reactions.
Allergy testing at AHN may include:
- Blood test: We take a sample of blood to check for proteins (antibodies) that trigger food allergy symptoms.
- Skin prick test: We use a small needle to place extracts of foods you may be allergic to beneath the surface of your skin. Irritations near the site mean you are producing antibodies for that food and are likely allergic.
- Oral food challenge: We use this test to confirm allergies to specific foods. We give you small doses of the food. If you show symptoms of a reaction, it means you are allergic. Our focus on your safety during testing helps us confirm your diagnosis while minimizing the risk for severe reactions.
Food allergy or food intolerance?
If eating certain foods gives you an upset stomach or headaches, the problem might not be food allergies. It may be a food intolerance.
Food intolerances occur when your body has difficulty digesting certain foods. Treatment for food intolerances requires the care of a digestive health doctor (also known as a gastroenterologist).
An allergist can determine whether the problem is a food allergy or food intolerance so you can get the care you need to feel better. At AHN, our allergists start by performing a physical exam and talking with you about your symptoms.
The next steps of your care may include:
- Allergy testing to confirm or rule out a food allergy
- A referral to one of our digestive health doctors (learn more about AHN’s Center for Digestive Health)
Oral immunotherapy for food allergies
Oral immunotherapy helps young adults and children build up a tolerance to foods that trigger life-threatening allergic reactions. After completing treatment, people may only experience mild symptoms if they accidentally eat a food they are allergic to. Some people experience no symptoms.
Oral immunotherapy helps you build tolerance over time by regularly exposing you to small doses of the food you are allergic to. Here’s how it works:
- Treatments start in our offices. There, you swallow a liquid solution containing trace levels of the food you are allergic to. We closely monitor you during this process to lower your risk for a severe reaction.
- You continue taking safe levels of the food at home in pill form or by eating small bites of it to keep your tolerance up.