According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) about six million children in the United States have some type of food allergy. Food allergies come in many forms. Some children may have mild allergy symptoms such as a stomachache or diarrhea after eating particular foods, whereas other children could have anaphylaxis and potentially die from a food allergy.
The eight most common foods that cause allergic reactions in children include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
Currently there is no cure for food allergies.Some children outgrow their allergy and some children remain allergic to certain foods for life. Usually allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are not outgrown.
Strict avoidance of foods causing the food allergy is crucial in managing the allergy. Unfortunately even small amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Children with a food allergies should be taught the importance of avoiding foods they are allergic to and the importance of not sharing food with others or drinking from a water fountain that is used by others. It is also important to teach your child at an early age how to read food labels. Federal law mandates packaged food labels to list when one of the top eight food allergens are in a certain food.
Parents should also check the ingredients of health, beauty and craft items since some of these may contain food allergens such as soy or tree nuts. When eating at a restaurant or ice cream parlor be sure to tell your serve about the food allergy before ordering. When cooking at home be careful since safe food can become contaminated by foods containing an unsafe food with utensils and cutting boards. For more information on reading food labels, go to www.foodallergy.org/food- labels and for more information on cross-contact, www.foodallergy.org/cross-contact.
Have a plan
If your child has a life threatening allergy and an epinephrine auto-injector, a Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan will be prescribed by either your primary health care provider or an allergist. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan contains all the foods that your child is allergic to, possible symptoms of an allergic reaction, the treatment that should be administered to your child, and under what circumstance and when 911 should be called. Make sure you are trained on how to use the epinephrine auto-injector, when it is prescribed. It is also important to check the expiration date of the epinephrine auto-injector since it usually only has a shelf life of only one year.
Food allergies and school
Before your child with a life-threatening allergy attends school notify the school nurse and teacher. The school
nurse should know what foods need to be avoided, have a copy of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, and epinephrine. You should have one epinephrine twin pack auto-injector that stays at school. It is important to know exactly what specific food management strategies the school has. Most schools have adapted food allergy management strategies such as peanut/tree nut-safe classrooms, and peanut/tree nut-free tables in the cafeteria. School nurses are a valuable resource and educate school staff on food allergy management. If your child rides a bus for school make sure the bus driver is informed of your child’s life threatening allergy.