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We all know someone with food allergies.  Most food allergies are not an emergency, rather a nuisance.  But, there does exist those few that suffer from major food allergies – known as an anaphylactic reaction.  If these type of allergies are not treated promptly, they can lead to death.  The link below is a story about a most severe peanut allergy:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10243950/ns/health-allergies_and_asthma/t/teen-peanut-allergy-dies-after-kiss/

While this type of severe reaction is rare, the risk is there.  Food allergies are a serious business and should be respected. So the questions I am often asked are:  How can I prevent my child from having food allergies, what do I do if my child or I have an allergic reaction, what do I do now that my child or I have these food allergies?

It is important to know that food allergens usually occur in children, BUT they can develop in adults – so read on, it still can apply to you!

How To Prevent Food Allergies

Honestly, there may be nothing you can do to prevent food allergies.  The research that exists, at bes,t are simply recommendations on how to reduce the chance of developing food allergies.  But, just know you may follow every tip out there and your child still may develop food allergies.  It is not your fault.  These are also good recommendations if your family has a history of food allergies: 

1) Breastfeed exclusively for the first six mos of your child’s life, then continue up to 12 mos while introducing solids – The idea is that foods are introduced slowly after 6 mos of age, to limit the bodies exposure to alot of potential allergens at one time. 

2) Introduce supplemental food after 6 months, one food item at a time – start with vegetables first, one at a time for 2-3 days at a time, before introducing another one.  Continue to avoid the most common food allergens: cow’s milk, egg, peanut, treenuts, fish and shellfish.

3) Cooked foods are preferred to fresh forms (in terms of common allergen foods), especially when allergies to the fresh forms are common (fruits, meats).

4) As your child gets older, if you choose to introduce common food allergens – The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Cow’s milk and other Dairy Products(age 12 months)
  • Egg and egg-containing products(age 24 months)
  • Peanuts and Tree Nuts(age 36 months)
  • Fish and shellfish (age 36 months)

What Do I Do If I (or my child) Experiences An Allergic Reaction?

Severe allergic food reactions are to be treated right away. If you or your child experiences the following symptoms: like trouble with breathing, severe cough, or swelling of the face and lips!  Call 911 immediately, DO NOT attempt to drive you or your child to the ER!  In this type of emergency, you or your child’s condition can deteriorate rapidly. Ambulances and emergency medical professionals can handle these emergencies, while transporting to the ER.

Other less emergent, still serious reactions to foods include: runny nose, sore throat, rash, hives, itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.  If you or your children experience this after eating a certain food, contact your health care provider.  Giving an antihistamine like: Zyrtec, Benadryl, or Claritin can help lessen the reaction.  But, it is important to talk to your health care provider before giving medications – especially if you suspect an allergy.

Your health care provider (notice I don’t say doctor ;, ask me why!) may prescribe an Epi-pen for allergic reactions that are severe.  They will direct you as to when you should administer this medication.  Remember to check your Epi-pen and replace it every year.  These do expire, and should be replaced yearly. If you or your child does experience an allergic reaction and all you have is an expired Epi-pen – USE IT!!  It may not be as effective, but it could mean saving a life!!  Your health care provider will, probably recommend seeing an allergist for allergy testing. 

What Do I Do Now That My Child Has A Food Allergy?

Basically, what you do once diagnosed with food allergies are simply based on their severity.  If you or your child has a life threatening food allergy, then avoidance of the food is vital.  This requires good communication with anyone caring for your child or those around you on a daily basis. Teachers and preschool workers are being educated on the importance of identify and caring for children with food allergies.  It may also be a good idea to hace an allergy bracelet made to be worn, in case you or your child is alone and they experience an allergic reaction.

Most importantly you and your children can live very normal lives with food allergies.  It is simply a learning curve on food avoidance.  Some food allergies are easier to avoid than others, but it can be done.  Also, if a parent is allergic to a certain food, do not assume your children will be – just take care and follow the above recommendations in introducing those foods.

Want a little more information.  Nurse Practitioner Barb Dehn talk about food allergies here:

http://7liveonline.com/video?id=8201806

I hope this blog helps if you or your child have food allergies.  Please share your allergy stories with me.  How have you found creative ways around food allergies?

Coming up soon…. Seasonal Allergies!! Oh Yuck!!!

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