While a lot of kids are picky eaters, children with food allergies have no choice in the matter. Their immune systems’ limit the types of foods they can consume.
If your child has food allergies, they are not alone. In fact, according to the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics 1 in every 13 children have been diagnosed with a food allergy. Food allergies can begin at any age and affect all races and ethnicities, however the development of food allergies is multifactorial. While there are multiple factors that may increase the risk of development of food allergies
Food allergies also have a genetic link. Children with a sibling or parent with an allergic condition- not just food allergies but also asthma, allergic rhinitis or hay fever- are more likely to be diagnosed with food allergies. Furthermore, children with a food allergy are more likely to have other related conditions such as asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema).
What is a food allergy?
It is an adverse immune response to a food protein. This immune response often occurs quickly after ingestion, but can occur hours after food contact. Food allergies can be mediated by multiple immunologic mechanisms, but most commonly are the direct result of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies recognize food protein as foreign invaders and ultimately trigger cells in the skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal system to react.
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
While there is no cure for food allergies, strict avoidance and early recognition of food allergens are essential to preventing food reactions. If that is not possible here are 10 management tips to prevent food reactions:
10 Tips To Manage Food Allergies at Home:
- Get a professional diagnosis. Don’t try to diagnose a food allergy yourself. Consult an allergist and develop an action plan for managing the allergy. This action plan should indicate which foods your child should avoid, and medications, such as an antihistamine or, for severe reactions, self-injectable epinephrine.
- Give your child’s food allergy action plan to people who regularly see your child, including relatives, caregivers and their friends’ parents.
- Always read food labels to see if the product contains ingredients your child is allergic to, OR made in a factory that produces other food products that contain the allergen (factory information is beginning to appear on some labels).
- Get support at school and daycare. Involve your child’s primary teacher, the school nurse, and key food service staff and make them aware of your child’s food allergy action plan. Make sure all staff your child sees during the school day and during after-school activities have a copy of the plan.
- Pack a lunch for your child. If your child does plan to order “hot lunch” go over the school lunch menu with your child to identify foods to avoid, and if possible food substitutions.
- “Allergy Allies”- Encourage your child to talk openly with friends and classmates about their allergy, what foods they must avoid, and what could happen to them if they don’t. Suggest that your child enlist their friends in helping them “stay on the alert” for foods in question so they won’t get sick.
- Be ready for emergencies. Teach your child the signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, how to call 911, how to use their emergency medicines such as injectable epinephrine.
- Consider having your child wear a medical alert bracelet.
- Join groups dedicated to supporting and encouraging families coping with food allergies. Check Meetup.com
- Be aware of signs of stress, anxiety and depression. Food allergies in children affect their quality of life.
To learn more about managing food allergies at home, you can visit Hudson Allergy at www.hudsonallergy.com and follow them on Twitter @HudsonAllergy.
Today’s post is a guest blog from Dr. Kuriakose of Hudson Allergy Center in New York. Dr. Julie Kuriakose, a Cosmetic Allergist, physician and educator who is dual board certified in Allergy/Immunology and Internal Medicine. Dr. Kuriakose is a Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons/New York Presbyterian and a faculty member at New York Presbyterian/Cornell Weill.