Has your child recently been diagnosed with food allergies? If so, it can be such a relief when you find out what is causing your child’s symptoms. At the same time though, it can be quite stressful to learn how your child can or cannot eat and the “do’s” and “don’ts” of his or her new diet. Statistically, 2-4 % of children have allergic reactions to certain foods. A reaction occurs when a specific type of food is triggered by the body as harmful, resulting in the immune system releasing large quantities of the chemical known as histamine, ultimately causing an allergic reaction. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology include the following as symptoms of an allergic reaction that occur typically within a few minutes to a couple hours after the food is ingested:
- Hives, skin rashes, itching, or flushing color to the skin
- Tightness in chest, short breath, wheezing
- Sneezing and/or runny nose
- Watery and itchy eyes
- Nausea, vomiting, colic, diarrhea, cramping in the stomach
- The lips/palate/tongue/throat becoming itchy, tingly, and/or swollen
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, statistics have found that eight types of food cause 90% of the allergic reactions in children. They are:
- Tree nuts (i.e. pecans, almonds, and walnuts just to name a few)
Some food allergies from eggs, milk, and soy can diminish as children grow older but other food allergies from peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish stay typically stay with children their whole lives.
To keep your child safe and protected from allergic reactions from foods they are allergic to, it’s important to teach your child the “do’s” and “don’ts” of what they can and cannot eat. Here are some helpful tips on how to do this:
- Discuss your child’s food allergies with the school faculty, including your child’s teacher. Teach your child and the faculty the signs of an allergic reaction so your child can be treated immediately.
- As a family, read all food labels.
- Explain to your child that he or she cannot trade lunches or snacks with peers.
- Keep medications on hand wherever your child goes to be able to treat an allergic reaction if one occurs.
- Allow your child to cook with you. Doing so will help teach your child to be proactive about his or her health and they will feel that they have some “control” in making sure their health is of utmost importance.