According to the CDC, food allergies in children have significantly increased over the years. Food allergies occur when the body wrongly identifies a type of food as a harmful substance. The body then triggers an immune system reaction, particularly releasing antibodies to fight the allergen.
Even if a child ingests only a small amount of food, these antibodies can still detect it, and it will in turn signal the immune system to release histamine. Histamine is the chemical responsible for allergic responses like runny nose, rashes and hives, tingling sensation on the tongue or lips, tightness in the throat, itchy eyes, difficulty in breathing, wheezing, diarrhea, vomiting, and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock. An allergic reaction can occur immediately after eating, or even hours after an individual has eaten the food.
It is then vital that parents know the type of food that a child is allergic to. There are more than 160 foods that can cause an allergic reaction. However, only eight of these cause around 90 percent of the reactions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has identified milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans as the food sources causing majority of the allergic reactions.
Since the reactions may be mild to severe, parents need to cautiously supervise a child’s intake of food and drinks. With allergies, a small bite can trigger an allergic response that can be life-threatening. Make sure that you visit your child’s doctor, so he can do certain tests when necessary. Some doctors recommend identifying the type of allergens through skin testing. If allergens are identified, certain measures can be taken so that future allergic reactions can be prevented.
After all, the initial mild reactions after ingestion could not be used as a measure to determine the severity of the reaction. Without prompt treatment, these symptoms can abruptly develop into something serious. Thus, it is important for parents take matters very seriously.
Always read food labels and teach your older child to do the same. Do not safely assume that your child will no longer have an allergic reaction, to a food product that he has already tried. Read labels carefully because it is very possible for food products to have added ingredients at some point.
Explain to your child why he should never consume foods that have caused his allergies. Make sure that he clearly understands why he needs to stay away from certain food products. Let your child know the possible symptoms he may experience, and that he should tell an adult once he exhibits similar symptoms.
When eating out, always let the server know what type of food your child may have a reaction to. It is essential that food is prepared not on pans or surfaces that contained food, which may cause an allergic reaction in your child. Keep in mind that even cross contamination of food in the kitchen can cause a reaction.
It is also very important that you notify care providers, teachers or even other parents, who constantly interact with your child. You may even ask your doctor for an emergency plan, in the event that your child may have an allergic reaction. You can furnish a copy to the school nurse and other adults responsible for your child’s care. The plan should include the type of medication that needs to be given to your child, people to contact, and other things that need to be done in the event of a an allergic reaction.
If your child is at risk of having severe reactions or anaphylaxis, you may have him wear a medical alert bracelet. A doctor may also recommend that your child carries an epinephrine auto injector. Work with the school staff in identifying a key person who can give the shot should a severe reaction occur.
Since allergic reactions can be life-threatening, parents need to take measures so that these can be avoided. Keep in mind that the best way to manage food allergies in children is to avoid the allergens altogether.