I have a really hard time hiding my emotions. Yesterday morning, in particular, was challenging for me. After finishing off two small pieces of cake made with powdered milk, my 3-year old suddenly refused to eat another bite during his food challenge. We had to stop the test. After only two doses, even though he didn’t have a reaction, the results were inconclusive because he wouldn’t eat all five doses. While I tried to remain upbeat and cheerful, my frustration was clearly visible.
This was his fourth food challenge, so we all knew the routine pretty well. Of all the scenarios I considered, my son refusing to eat wasn’t one of them. All of us kept talking about how wonderful the food challenge would be, since my son would get to eat cake during the test. Compared to his 3-year check-up a few weeks earlier—which required a painful finger-prick for a blood sample and a vaccination injected in his thigh—the baked milk food challenge would be so much easier.
Signs of Trouble
Once at the hospital though, the signs of trouble appeared early on. First, I was disappointed to learn the cake contained chestnut flour, instead of an all-purpose flour made from wheat. My son doesn’t have a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, but this was apparently the standard cake the hospital used for a baked milk challenge. While I didn’t mind the taste of the cake, my finicky son wasn’t loving it.
While his first small piece of cake went down relatively easily, the second almost made him vomit. As he started lurching, the doctor quickly grabbed a bowl for him. Thankfully it stayed down, but I started wondering how he could possible manage the final and largest dose, if such a small piece caused this type of response.
For the third dose, the nurse suggested crumbling the cake and mixing it with applesauce. We did this during his food challenge with baked egg, and he gladly ate it up. Today was different though. When the spoon was presented, he refused to open his mouth. He really didn’t want to eat it, but at the same time, he had a little sparkle in his eyes, like we were playing a game—and he was winning. Did I mention our son is 3 years old?
We waited an hour after the second dose with all of us attempting to feed him the cake and applesauce mixture. Airplane spoons were flying into his mouth. I tried dancing and singing with him, while sneaking in a spoonful. His older brother even tried to help out. Nothing worked, and so the doctor said we should stop. You can’t force someone to eat, and our attempts just seemed to strengthen his determination.
How often does this happen?
According to my son’s pediatric allergist, this certainly wasn’t the first time a child refused to eat during a food challenge. It happens—especially with kids around our son’s age. I poked around for some data on the prevalence of situations like ours, but haven’t come across any yet. I’m curious about this, so if you have any info—either stories from your own experiences or quantitative data from a peer-reviewed journal article, for example, please let me know.
In 6 months, my son will repeat the food challenge for baked milk—except this time I may be bringing a homemade cake. The pediatric allergist will be sending a recipe, so I’ll practice it a few times with all-purpose flour, along with a little cocoa powder or some Enjoy Life chocolate chips. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we don’t have the same result!
In the meantime, while we’re waiting to redo the test, we’ll be scheduling another food challenge for raw/undercooked egg as soon as possible. We’ve already been serving our son lots of foods containing baked eggs, so I’m really hoping for a negative test result in the coming months.
Have you ever repeated a food challenge because your child refused to eat? If you have any advice to share with us and others about food challenges with children, please leave a comment below or send me an email. Thanks in advance for your help!