Oral food challenge (OFC) is the gold standard for diagnosing food allergy. However, OFCs are often not performed for various reasons, including resistance from children and parents. We conducted focus groups with parents of food-allergic children to determine barriers preventing them from OFC participation, and potential solutions.
Parents of children with physician-diagnosed food allergies (recruited online through a Vancouver area support group) were invited to participate in a two-hour focus group on OFC barriers and solutions. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed to determine the most common barriers and solutions.
Seventeen parents (82.3% female, 76.4% post-secondary educated, 76.4% Caucasian) participated in two focus groups (which had 20 spaces total) in June 2017. Barriers to participating in OFCs included fear of a severe reaction or of needing to use epinephrine, logistical issues such as scheduling, lack of information on what to expect with the procedure itself, as well as lack of understanding of the risks/benefits of an oral challenge regardless of outcome. Solutions included providing more information and education for parents and children, offering psychological support pre- and post-OFC, and conducting OFCs in hospitals instead of community clinics.
This is the first Canadian study to describe parental OFC barriers and solutions. A limitation was selection of parents from a specific city who join support groups, which might not be representative of other allergy parents. Further research should be conducted to determine the most effective strategies to make OFCs more accessible to families.