Food allergies

What is my child’s risk of developing a food allergy?

Up to 25 percent of Americans report an adverse reaction to food during their lifetime; however, the incidence of “true” food allergies is much lower. Only 2 to 5 percent of people in the U.S. have a “true” food allergy. Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe and can even become life threatening. Unless your child has been diagnosed with a specific food allergy, there is no need to assume that certain foods must be removed from his diet.

What are the most common culprits?

Peanut anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) is the most common cause of fatal food-induced allergy reactions. Those at highest risk of death are teens who have a peanut allergy as well as asthma.

The most common food allergies include: cow’s milk (2.5 percent of infants), eggs (2.5 percent of infants), peanut (0.6 percent), soy (0.4 percent), tree nuts (0.4 percent) and wheat (0.5 percent). Adults are more likely to be allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, fruits and vegetables.

What are common food allergy symptoms?

Food allergy symptoms may include itching or swelling of the lips, tongue and face, rash, hives, tightening of the throat, hoarse voice, difficulty breathing, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nasal congestion or itching, and rarely full-blown anaphylactic shock, which is characterized by rapid loss of consciousness and multi-organ failure.

Can food allergies be treated?

Treatment is based on strict avoidance of the food. Parents must become expert label readers (e.g. children allergic to soy cannot eat products that contain “lecithin”). Eating at restaurants, school and friends’ houses requires extra vigilance.

In the event that a child eats a prohibited food, epinephrine must be administered immediately. Epi-Pens should be present at home and at daycare/school, and proper use of these devices should be reviewed with all adult caregivers. When used properly and early on, Epi-Pens can saves lives. Epi-Pens must be replaced over time to ensure their effectiveness. Check the expiration date and replace as needed.

Local allergy specialists may be able to lessen or eliminate your child’s allergy symptoms by administering a series of allergy shots, or by repetitive and carefully controlled oral food desensitization. Please talk to your pediatric provider to discuss referrals to an allergist.

Will this food allergy ever go away?

Childhood allergies to wheat, milk, and eggs commonly resolve with age; however, allergies to peanut, tree nuts and seafood often last a lifetime. Treatment of some food allergies is now possible for certain patients. By giving tiny amounts of the offending food in carefully controlled oral challenges, some children’s bodies can be trained to become less allergic. Food challenges must always be done by a trained specialist in Allergy and Immunology.

What steps should be taken at home?

If your child has a food allergy, schedule an appointment with us to discuss your child’s Food Allergy Action Plan.


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