Every three minutes someone is admitted to the hospital for a food-induced allergy attack. What is just as alarming is the fact that past reactions cannot predict the severity of future reactions. Babies and children suffer more often than adults, but food allergies can develop any time and at any age. One of the best ways parents can arm themselves is to be educated on the ins and outs of food allergies.
Even though food allergies can be inherited, whether or not a child will develop an allergy to the same foods as their parent or sibling is unpredictable. There is some data which shows that if a child is allergic to peanuts, his or her sibling is more likely to be allergic to peanuts as well, but it is not inevitable.
Food-related genetic diseases, like celiac disease, very often run in families. Celiac disease is not an allergy but rather a gluten malabsorption issue and not to be confused with an allergy to wheat. The symptoms and physical reactions differ significantly and should not be confused with each other.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of food allergies are quickly reactive, showing up within hours, minutes or even seconds. The most common symptoms involve the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract and/or the cardiovascular system. Anaphylaxis, which includes restricted breathing, a drop in blood pressure and problematic heart rate, is the most severe reaction and is life threatening. If your child shows any of these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.
Other food allergy symptoms include hives, vomiting, rash, wheezing and coughing. Mild reactions should be noted, photographed if possible, and discussed with a doctor.
The good news
Navigating public spaces and social activities can be challenging if you have kids with allergies. The good news is that awareness is growing regarding food allergies. Many schools have implemented peanut-free policies or nut-free tables to help kids manage their allergies. Parents have embraced the importance of asking about food allergies when hosting parties or playdates. Even children have come to understand that some food allergies are a life threatening and have compassionately risen to the challenge of standing by their food-allergy friends.
Be sure & stay safe
Testing for many food allergies is available today. There are both blood tests and skin-scratch tests that can measure your child’s sensitivity to various food. Ninety percent of food related allergic reactions are caused by the following foods:
- Tree nuts
Though avoiding the foods your child is allergic to is of utmost importance, cross-contamination can happen, especially in restaurants, and accidental exposure can happen anywhere. It is important to know how to treat your child’s allergies and when to seek medical attention. Mild allergies can often be treated with antihistamines or topical creams while severe allergies with a risk of anaphylaxis may require you to carry injectable life-saving medication at all times.
If you think that your child may have a food intolerance or allergy, contact your pediatrician or allergist to discuss your concerns, testing and treatment options.