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Food Allergy Program

The Massachusetts General Hospital Food Allergy Program integrates patient-centered research and evidence-based, multidisciplinary care for adults and children with known or suspected allergies to foods including peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, wheat and soy.

Multidisciplinary Expertise Makes the Difference

We take a team approach at the Mass General Food Allergy Program, integrating the expertise of different clinicians to optimally diagnose and treat patients. Depending on symptoms and medical history, the care team may include:

  • Allergists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Nutritionists
  • Psychologists

Having psychologists as part of our team is particularly useful in helping patients manage elimination diets and food aversions. In addition, we can bring in other specialists (e.g. dermatologists, pulmonologists and otolaryngologists) as indicated by your history. We are also happy to coordinate care with your existing care providers.

Care That Spans a Lifetime

Mass General is one of the few academic medical centers in Boston to treat both adults and children with food allergies. This continuum of care is important because while many children outgrow their food allergy, others require lifelong management of their condition. In these cases, consistency of approach is important.

Pediatric patients who remain under our care into adulthood enjoy the comfort that comes from receiving long-term care through a single program. Additionally, we will help coordinate care as patients make transitions to new specialists, such as from a pediatric to an adult gastroenterologist. Learn more about MassGeneral Hospital for Children's dedicated Pediatric Food Allergy Center.

What to Expect

Depending on the disease symptoms, new patients at the Food Allergy Program are seen first by either an allergist or gastroenterologist. The initial evaluation typically entails a detailed medical history, physical examination and blood tests.

When appropriate, we also refer you for skin prick testing or occasionally patch testing and/or a food challenge. In some cases, suspected gastrointestinal allergic disease may be further evaluated by endoscopy. Careful selection and interpretation of these various tests helps us pinpoint which foods may be causing your symptoms.

An important goal of evaluation is first to determine whether a suspected food reaction is indeed due to an allergic reaction. Next, we seek to identify the offending food. Finally, we choose the most effective treatment for you, either avoidance (the most common solution) or medical treatment.

In the case of an avoidance diet, we work with our dieticians to design a solution that provides optimal nutrition. We also offer expert guidance on avoidance of the foods we have identified as problematic, including a detailed treatment plan to manage unintentional exposures.

Your entire care team is committed to educating you about your diagnosis and the various aspects of its management, which can be difficult to navigate (especially for children). We believe ongoing patient education is essential to optimizing long-term management of your food allergy. Throughout your relationship with us, we will be completely forthcoming about the limits of what we currently understand and what we believe to be the most promising areas of research.

A Commitment to Pioneering Research

Today, treatments for food allergy are largely limited to avoidance. At the Food Allergy Program, we are committed to conducting multidisciplinary research that furthers our understanding of food allergy. As proven new treatments emerge, they will help us provide the best possible care for all our patients.

Upcoming clinical trials at Mass General will explore:

  • The role of oral immunotherapy in peanut allergy (for children six to 21 years of age)
  • The natural history of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) (for adults and children)
  • The efficacy of research laboratory tests for predicting allergenic foods in EoE (for adults and children)
  • The efficacy of elimination diets in EoE (for adults and children)

Browse online for open trials

Diagnosing & Treating Food Allergy

The Mass General Food Allergy Program offers a full range of diagnostic and treatment services for adults and children at the hospital's main campus in Boston, which includes MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Many of our services are also available at Mass General West in Waltham. Pediatric allergy services are also available at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

We focus primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of:

  • Immunoglobulin E-mediated (IgE-mediated) food allergy: immediate, potentially life-threatening reactions to milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and other foods
  • IgE-associated diseases: eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), gastroenteritis, atopic dermatitis
  • Other food antigen-associated diseases: food protein-induced enterocolitis

Certain diagnostic tools (which many hospitals do not have) help our team in making accurate diagnoses, such as:

  • Skin patch testing: May be useful for patients with EoE, atopic dermatitis or other diseases that may be caused, in part, by underlying food allergies
  • Food challenge: The most definitive procedure for testing whether someone can tolerate a specific food; for safety reasons, can only be performed in a hospital

Treatment for food allergy usually consists of educating the patient on avoiding the foods causing the symptoms, including unintentional exposures.

An Experienced & Committed Team

Our multidisciplinary team includes allergists and other clinicians who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating food allergies, and incorporate the latest evidence-based research into treatment protocols.

Wayne Shreffler, MD, PhD, director of the Food Allergy Center, joined Mass General in 2009 to help us enhance patient care by:

  • Integrating our clinical and research efforts with those of other Mass General specialties
  • Expanding our range of patient services
  • Launching a robust clinical research program aimed at developing new therapies

Dr. Shreffler did his fellowship training at Mount Sinai Medical Center, which is nationally recognized in food allergy research. He is a member of the Consortium of Food Allergy Research, whose goal is to identify the best possible treatment approaches for food allergies through research.

Educating the Next Generation

We are dedicated to preparing the next generation of great academic clinicians and researchers in allergy and immunology. Fellows in the Allergy and Immunology Training Program receive clinical and research training in food allergy, including patch testing and food challenges. Internal medicine and pediatrics residents also gain exposure to food allergy patients as part of their general training.

Food Allergies

A food allergy is an abnormal response of the body to a certain food.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

Food Allergy Center patient testimonials

Read about three patients who have benefited from services at the Food Allergy Center.

The Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and MassGeneral Hospital for Children

With the hope of making a long-term impact in the field, The Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) has been established to diagnose and treat known and suspected cases of food allergies.

Boston Health & Fitness Expo

An estimated 65,000 individuals attended the Boston Health & Fitness Expo.

Family Finds Support System in Food Allergy Center

Tadgh Murray continues to clear social and medical hurdles with help from the Food Allergy Center.

Are Food Allergies Over-Diagnosed?

Wayne Shreffler, MD, PhD, a pediatric allergist at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and director of the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, answers questions about the diagnosis and treatment of food allergies.

Are Kids at Risk When Peanuts Are Served on Airplanes?

Wayne Shreffler, MD, PhD, a pediatric allergist at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and director of the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, answers questions about proposed changes to air travel regulations.

Food Allergies and School: Frequently Asked Questions

The Food Allergy team at MassGeneral Hospital for Children answers common concerns about food allergies and school.

Establishment of the Mass General Food Allergy Center

In Fall 2009, Massachusetts General Hospital established a comprehensive center for the treatment and study of food allergy and food-related disorders to provide state-of-the-art care while investigating the mysteries that underlie these inadequately understood and as yet incurable diseases.

Summer Camp and your Food Allergic Child

After-school activities can be difficult with a food allergic child. Rose Ann Miller talks about her own experience sending her food allergic child to summer camp. Learn about how she worked together with the Food Allergy Center to prepare herself, the camp and her child for this new life hurdle.

Food Allergy Anxieties

Nancy S. Rotter, PhD, a pediatric psychologist in the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, treats children who are impacted by medical illness and specializes in understanding the challenges of preparing allergic children for transitions at different developmental stages. Sarah Wolfgang talks about her own experience managing her day to day activities with her two allergic children.

A dream come true: working at Mass General’s Food Allergy Center

Qian Yuan, MD, PhD, is a gastroenterologist and clinical director at the Food Allergy Center (FAC) at Massachusetts General Hospital. Before coming to Mass General, Dr. Yuan worked with renowned immunologist and allergist K. Frank Austen, MD, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he sparked an interest in Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE or EoE). Read about the exciting research projects and advancements in EoE at the center.

What research is currently underway at the Food Allergy Center?

Research at the Food Allergy Center including an oral immunotherapy study of peanut-allergic children, a study of older adolescents and adults with milk and peanut allergies, and plans for a new, multi-food study with Stanford University, and more.

Oral Food Challenges

The Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital has conducted more than 200 food challenges with a pass rate of about 70 percent. A food challenge is the most definitive procedure for testing whether someone can tolerate a specific food. Parents from the Food Allergy Center talk about their own experiences with food challenges.

Peanut Oral Immunotherapy Study at the Food Allergy Center

The Food Allergy Center is currently enrolling peanut allergic children ages 7–21 years in an oral immunotherapy (OIT) study, which involves administering small doses of peanut powder, increased over time. Read about Deb Edmunds’ insiders experience with her daughter, Ashley Edmunds, who is currently enrolled.

Food Allergy Center Summer Newsletter

Read about summer camp and your food allergic child, allergy anxiety, new books for parents and more in the summer Pediatric Food Allergy Center newsletter

What are the differences between oral immunotherapy and food challenges?

Wayne Shreffler, MD, PhD, division chief of Pediatric Allergy & Immunology at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and director of the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, explains the differences between food challenges, which are established methods of care, and oral immunotherapy, which is still in research.

Breastfeeding and the Development of Allergic Disease

In addition to practicing pediatric allergy/immunology at MGHfC and the Newton-Wellesley Hospital outpatient Pediatric Specialty Ambulatory Care Center, Dr. Iyengar conducts translational research on breast milk factors implicated in the development of allergic disease. As an Associate Investigator of the Harvard Clinical Nutrition Research Center (HCNRC) at MGH, she studies the role of breast milk in modulating gut mucosal responses in allergic disease.

Tips for enjoying the holidays with food allergies

MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s Food Allergy Center experts share their surefire tips for ensuring families with food allergies experience a happy and healthy holiday season.

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