Food Allergy

Greater than 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies – that translates to 1/13 children or 2 children/average classroom

Food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylactic or left threatening allergic reactions.

There are 8 foods that account for 90% of food allergies. They include the following:

  1. milk
  2. egg
  3. peanut
  4. tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds)
  5. wheat
  6. soy
  7. fish
  8. shellfish

Children may exhibit the following symptoms if they are having a reaction to a particular food:

  1. tingling sensation in the mouth
  2. swelling of the tongue and throat
  3. rash – usually hives within 30-45 min of ingestion
  4. eczema flare
  5. vomiting and abdominal cramps
  6. diarrhea
  7. wheezing, increased cough and trouble breathing
  8. drop in blood pressure or loss of consciousness

The following link describes how a child may describe a food reaction: http://www.foodallergy.org/file/child-reaction.pdf

The diagnosis of food allergies usually combines the efforts of the parent, pediatrician and a pediatric allergist.  You will generally be referred to a pediatric allergist once the history indicates a possible food allergy.  The following tests usually performed and are further discussed in the link below:

  1. skin prick testing – measures presence of IgE to tested foods – if there is potential for allergy – there will be a “positive skin test” or a wheal formation.
  2. 50-60% of skin tests have the potential of having a false positive result – that means it may indicate an allergy when that food may not cause an actual reaction
  3. For the reason mentioned above, skin testing is often confirmed with blood testing – the blood tests test for IgE specific to the food
  4. If both blood and skin tests indicate positive results – there is a good chance that your child is allergic to that food
  5. Allergist may also use oral food challenges and trial elimination diets

http://www.foodallergy.org/diagnosis-and-testing – full details on food allergy testing

The following tests are not considered diagnostic of food allergies:  http://www.foodallergy.org/diagnosis-testing/unproven-testing

Treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrin administered via an epi-pen that should be with the child wherever they go.  In addition, paying careful attention to ingredient lists and providing safe substitutions for foods is essential to avoiding a serious reaction. The following links provide more information:

http://www.foodallergy.org/newly-diagnosed/food-allergy-field-guide – complete guide for newly diagnosed food allergies

http://www.foodallergy.org/file/emergency-care-plan.pdf – emergency reaction care plan

http://www.foodallergy.org/managing-food-allergies – tips for managing food allergies in different environments including school, home and restaurants

http://www.foodallergy.org/food-labels – reading food labels

http://www.foodallergy.org/file/tips-avoid-allergen.pdf – specifics of other names allergens go by

Learn to think ahead and plan for safe substitutions and read labels and ask about ingredients EVERY TIME

Be a Pal:

  1. Don’t make jokes about food allergies because they are very serious
  2. Don’t share food with friends who have food allergies
  3. wash hands after eating
  4. Ask your friends what they are allergic to and help them avoid those foods
  5. If a friend with food allergies becomes ill – get help immediately!!

Other helpful links:

http://www.foodallergy.org/about-food-allergies

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/nutrition/Pages/Hidden-Dangers-Food-Allergies-and-Teens.aspx