A food allergy happens when the body reacts against harmless proteins found in foods. The reaction usually happens shortly after a food is eaten. Food allergy reactions can vary from mild to severe Children often outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, soy and wheat.
These foods cause the most food allergies:
- Cow milk
- Nuts from trees (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews)
- Fish (such as tuna, salmon, cod)
- Shellfish (such as shrimp, lobster)
If a new mother is breast-feeding, some especially sensitive babies can have allergic reactions to foods their mothers eat. Babies can be tested for allergies. Eliminating these foods from the mother’s diet may provide relief for the child. The most severe reactions are typically to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Children often outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, soy and wheat. All parents of a child with a food allergy should be aware of the possibility of anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing causes a sudden drop in blood pressure and can send a body into shock.
Symptoms of food allergy: When the body’s immune system overreacts to certain foods, the following symptoms may occur:
- Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
- Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
- Throat tightness
- Pale skin
- Loss of consciousness
The good news is that food allergies are often outgrown during early childhood. It is estimated that 80% to 90% of egg, milk, wheat, and soy allergies go away by age 5 years. Some allergies are more persistent. For example, 1 in 5 young children will outgrow a peanut allergy and fewer will outgrow allergies to nuts or seafood.
Your child’s school must be informed of any allergies. If your child has asthma or a severe allergy, give a copy of your child’s action plan to the school nurse or the administrative office. Also, inform class teacher about your child’s access to medication. In kids school bag keep a note of what can cause allergy to your child and provide your family physician name and phone number too. If your child is not allergic to wrist band put a wrist band that displays what allergy he or she has.
Talk to children about food allergies:
Begin by explaining your food allergy in simple terms, like “safe food” and “unsafe food.” :
As your children get older, you can provide more specifics about the disease, and how body reacts to allergens. For example, you can say, “I have a food allergy, which means that I can’t eat certain foods that most other people can eat. But there are a lot of things that I can eat, as long as they are safe for me.”
Let them know that food allergies are not contagious or abnormal:
Many people have food allergies and more and more people are being diagnosed with them, so your children will no doubt meet people at school and on the playground who also have allergies.
When talking about food allergy, use an optimistic and calm tone:
Let your children know that food allergies must be taken seriously, but avoid talking about them in a way that may unnecessarily scare them. Children with food allergies need to understand that some ingredients that can set off their allergies may not always be clearly indicated. Peanut allergies require a special diligence because they appear as variations in so many foods. Kids need to be very cautious about not only what they eat, but how their food is prepared. For example, peanut oil is often used for frying. While some restaurants do a good job of indicating allergen information to customers, it’s better to be safe and ask a server. Berries and fish can also be problematic in the same way, as they appear in sauces and as components in larger dishes.
Teach your child how to manage his or her food allergies
You can start teaching your child even at a young age. When old enough, teach your child to read food labels. Also teach your child how and when to use an epinephrine auto injector, and to tell an adult if he or she is having an allergic reaction.
There are also a number of ways that you can help kids understand food allergies.
- Involve your children in cooking and making meals that are safe for you to eat.
- Read them children’s books about food allergies.
- Encourage your children to ask their peers if they have food allergies before sharing food.
- Teach your children about label-reading and what to look for on a label that might indicate that it is safe or unsafe to eat.
- Remind your children to be careful if they are eating something with your allergen in it (e.g. if they eat a lunch at school that contains your allergen or they have a snack at the movies). You can ask them to wash their hands, brush their teeth when they get home, etc.
- Put a note on refrigerator about the foods that can cause allergy to your kids or family members.