Ways To Manage Food Allergies And Prevent Allergic Reactions
Avoiding exposure to known food triggers is key to managing food allergies.
Some ways to prevent exposure include:
- Getting familiar with food labels: Food manufacturers in the United States must indicate whether a food product contains any of the eight most common food allergens. Read food labels regularly, and teach your child how to read them to spot any ingredients that can cause allergic reactions.
- Being wary of prepared foods: When consuming food prepared outside of the home or at a restaurant, ask what ingredients are in the food and how the food was cooked or served.
- Working with a professional: Registered dietitians can advise on safe food substitutions and ensuring a childs diet has enough nutrients to support healthy growth when managing food allergies.
Creating an emergency plan is also a critical life-saving strategy for severe food allergies.
Preparing for food allergy-related emergencies can include:
How Are Food Allergies Treated
If your child has a food allergy, the allergist will help you create a treatment plan. Treatment usually means avoiding the allergen and all the foods that contain it.
You’ll need to read food labels so you can avoid the allergen. Makers of foods sold in the United States must state whether foods contain any of the top eight most common allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soy.
For more information on foods to avoid, check sites such as the Food Allergy Research and Education network .
There’s no cure for food allergies. But medicines can treat both minor and severe symptoms. Antihistamines might be used to treat symptoms such as hives, runny nose, or belly pain from an allergic reaction.
If your child has any kind of serious food allergy, the doctor will want him or her to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency.
An epinephrine auto-injector is a prescription medicine that comes in a small, easy-to-carry container. It’s easy to use. Your doctor will show you how. Kids who are old enough can be taught how to give themselves the injection. If they carry the epinephrine, it should be nearby, not left in a locker or in the nurse’s office.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis that would require epinephrine include:
- swelling in the mouth
- trouble breathing
- any symptoms from two or more body systems , such as hives and belly pain
- any other combination of two or more symptoms that affect different parts of the body
Food Sensitivities Can Affect Kids In So Many Ways:
In babies we often see:
- Infant reflux/silent reflux
- Proctocolitis or allergic colitis
- Blood or mucus in stool/foul-smelling diapers
- Disrupted sleep
In toddlers and children we often see:
- Behavior issues: anger, aggression, hyperactivity, attention difficulty
- Sleep problems
- Congestion/cough/ear infections
The good news? By eliminating trigger foods, we can usually resolve these symptoms, and often in just a couple weeks. Sometimes these dietary changes are permanent, but often theyre just temporary until we can calm down the immune system and/or digestive tract. Most of our clients see a 60-70% reduction in symptoms in the first 2 weeks.
So how do we put an end to the never-ending, frustrating guessing game? We use a simple blood test to identify reactions to 150 different foods and food chemicals. We discover what causes an immune response in your child and more importantly, we learn what doesnt cause an immune response in your child. These foods and chemicals are different for everyone, which is why random elimination diets can be so frustrating.
We then use those safe foods to build a custom diet for you or your child. As symptoms resolve and inflammation decreases, we systematically add foods back in over the course of several weeks and months. This means you or your child wont be starving or strictly limited for a long period of time.
What you can expect:
Well mail you a test kit.
Youll get your results.
Follow the eating plan.
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Easy Family Meals To Serve Around Food Allergies
These easy dinners are the ones that Megan serves regularly since they are easy to customize for her family and serve without common food allergies.
ALLERGY-FRIENDLY TACOS:I have several varieties so we dont tire of them, like my Slow Cooker Pineapple Chipotle Pork Tacos, or my Chili Lime Chicken Tacos. Theyre customizable for each person and who doesnt love tacos? The one thing we all agree on: guacamole, which I love using for the healthy fats for my kids, since they dont get fat from typical kid sources like cheese.
ALLERGY-FRIENDLY SPAGHETTI:I love to make my gluten free dairy free ragu sauce, because it makes enough for one meal, and then I freeze the leftover sauce for nights when life gets crazywhich between allergist appointments, school, and sports with four kids that happens a lot. Plus spaghetti is never a hard sell to my kids, and its great finger food for toddlers. You can choose any noodles that work for your family.
BREAKFAST FOR DINNER: We love to do hash-browns , bacon and my pancakes for food allergies. This recipe also makes a ton, and my kids love to microwave leftovers for breakfasts for a few days after. Im all about making one thing and letting it stretch for a few days.
What Foods Most Often Cause Food Allergy
Approximately 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by the followingeight foods:
Eggs, milk, and peanuts are the most common causes of food allergies inchildren, with wheat, soy, and tree nuts also included. Peanuts, tree nuts,fish, and shellfish commonly cause the most severe reactions. Nearly 5percent of children under the age of five years have food allergies. From1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18 percentamong children under age 18 years. Although most children “outgrow” theirallergies, allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish may belifelong.
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Diagnostic Tests For Allergy In Children
These tests will help you and your child’s healthcare provider or allergist know what substances cause your child’s allergy symptoms. Knowing what substances cause the symptoms tells you what your child should stay away from. It also tells the provider what treatments might reduce symptoms. Diagnostic tests for allergy may include:
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRCRaymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
Be Especially Careful When Introducing Peanut Products
Serious food allergies are dangerous and will change the way you and your family eat. Since the most common serious allergen is peanuts, be overly cautious when introducing it to your child.
This doesnt mean hold off on introducing peanuts though. In fact, theres currently research that states that introducing younger children to peanuts, as early as 4 months old, can actually reduce the risk of developing an allergy.
Heres a great article with tips for safely incorporating peanuts into your babys diet.
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Testing Food Allergies Early In Children
Food allergies can cause strain for both parents and children. It can create a sense of unease around every meal if there are exposures to food allergies in new places like restaurants, friends houses and even schools. As many as 1 in 13 children are affected by food allergies, and that number is growing. Studies have shown that, for at least some children, early introduction of food can help children to avoid the development of food allergies, whereas avoidance of allergenic foods can potentially increase the risk of development of food allergies. Heres what introducing those foods can look like.
Referral To An Allergy Clinic
If your GP suspects a food allergy, you may be referred to an allergy clinic for testing.
The tests needed can vary, depending on the type of allergy:
- if the symptoms developed quickly you’ll probably be given a skin-prick test or a blood test
- if the symptoms developed more slowly you’ll probably be put on a food elimination diet
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How Can My Child Get Tested For Allergies
If your child has an adverse reaction or intolerance to certain foods, allergy testing is important. These simple tests can be performed for your child at Raffles Childrens Centre.
Skin Prick TestBlood TestFood challenge test
Besides testing, it is also important to tell your paediatrician about suspected food allergens, sensitivity to certain foods, and a family history of food or other allergies to help accurately diagnose the food allergen.
Signs Of A Food Allergy
How do you know if your child is having an allergic reaction? Common symptoms of an allergic reaction are:
- Skin: itching, hives, swelling, flushing and warmth
- Eyes: tearing, redness, itch, swelling
- Nose: runny nose, itch, congestion
- Mouth: itching, swelling of lips, tongue and mouth
- Stomach: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain
- Airway: chest tightness , shortness of breath, rapid breathing, coughing, wheezing
- Cardiovascular: weak pulse, loss of consciousness, pale appearance, dizziness lightheadedness, increased heart rate, then decrease heart rate
- Neurologic or psychologic: tingling of the mouth and face, feeling of doom
When more than one body system is involved, it is considered anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. If you do not have epinephrine autoinjector on hand, call 911 to get immediate help.
Sometimes symptoms of a food allergy are mild. Symptoms can come on rapidly or more slowly, over hours. It is important to monitor your child closely if you think they are having an allergic reaction.
Depending on age, your child may not have the words to describe the reaction they are feeling. Listen for phrases like:
- My tongue is hot or burning.
- My mouth itches or tingles.
- My mouth/throat feels funny.
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What Do The Results Mean
If the results show that you or your child has a food allergy, the treatment is to avoid the food.
There is no cure for food allergies, but eliminating the food from your diet should prevent allergic reactions.
Avoiding allergy-causing foods can involve carefully reading labels on packaged goods. It also means you need to explain the allergy to anyone who prepares or serves food for you or your child. This includes people like waiters, babysitters, teachers, and cafeteria workers. But even if you are careful, you or your child may be exposed to the food by accident.
If you or your child is at risk for a severe allergic reaction, your allergist will prescribe an epinephrine device you can use if accidentally exposed to the food. You’ll be taught how to inject the device in your or your child’s thigh.
If you have questions about your results and/or how to manage allergic complications, talk to your allergist.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Know The Difference: Food Allergy Vs Food Sensitivity Or Intolerance
Be aware that a food allergy is different from a food sensitivity or intolerance. Your child might feel bloated or gassy after having a milk product, but that could be a sign of an intolerance to lactose.
An allergic reaction is an immune system response to a particular food protein. This response would be stronger including hives, difficulty breathing, bad gut pain, vomiting and, in the most severe cases, could be life-threatening.
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Dining Out With Food Allergies
If your child has one or more food allergies, dining out can be achallenge. However, it is possible to have a healthy and satisfyingdining-out experience it just takes some preparation and persistence onyour part.
The American Dietetics Association offers these tips for dealing with foodallergies when your family is eating away from home:
Know what ingredients are in the foods at the restaurant where you plan to eat. When possible, obtain a menu from the restaurant ahead of time and review the menu items.
Let your server know from the beginning about your child’s food allergy. He or she should know how each dish is prepared and what ingredients are used. Ask about preparation and ingredients before you order. If your server does not know this information or seems unsure of it, ask to speak to the manager or the chef.
Avoid buffet-style or family-style service, as there may be cross-contamination of foods from using the same utensils for different dishes.
Avoid fried foods, as the same oil may be used to fry several different foods.
Alternately, there are several types of allergy cards available on theinternet that can be customized with your child’s personal information. Oneexample is the Food Allergy Buddy Dining Card, promoted by the NationalRestaurant Association.
What Do Results Mean
The meaning of the allergy test results depends on what test you do. If your child has a reaction to the food challenge test or elimination diet test, thats a pretty clear indicator theres an allergy to a food and they should stay away from it.
Blood tests arent as sensitive as skin tests, and can yield both false positives and false negatives.
Whatever allergy testing is done for your child, its important to place those results in the larger picture of the symptoms theyve exhibited and their reactions to specific exposures. Taken together, that will help confirm any specific allergy diagnosis.
Signs Of Food Allergies
Food allergies can cause symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening. Specific symptoms can cause:
- Skin problems, such as hives, itchy rashes or swelling
- Digestive issues, such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Respiratory problems, such as trouble breathing, wheezing, sneezing or throat tightness
- Circulatory issues, such as lightheadedness, pale skin or loss of consciousness
If your child has signs of a food allergy, see their health care provider. They may refer you to an allergist.
Introducing Solid Foods To Babies And Watching For Allergic Reactions
- Is able to sit up
- Has sufficient head and neck control
- Loses the tongue-thrust reflex that pushes food back out
- Tries to reach out to grab food
Timing of certain foods should also be considered when introducing solid foods to your baby. Try introducing these single ingredient infant foods to your baby one at a time, every 3 to 5 days:
- Rice or oat cereal
- Yellow and orange vegetables
- Green vegetables
- Age-appropriate stage-based foods with meats
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Test Your Child For Food Allergies If They Have Any Reaction To Any Foods
Seeing your child have an allergic reaction is one of the scariest things. The panic that sets in as you see your kid’s face turning red is hard to describe. Immediately I start running to get the Benadryl, get dressed , make a mental plan about whether to rush to the hospital or call 911, think about whether it’s worth the time to strap him into his car seat or if I should just let him loose in the back seat and just drive, carefully watch his face for any signs of tongue swelling, anaphylaxis, or difficulty breathing, check his body for any more redness, administer the Benadryl… all in the span of 2 minutes. It’s terrifying.
And to add insult to injury, my son kicks and screams when I give him medicine , and he always throws up as soon as he tastes the Benadryl because it tastes pretty gross, so who knows if the medication even got into his system? I sometimes end up giving two doses just in case.
Luckily each time the allergic reaction has been pretty mild, his tongue and breathing was fine, and the redness starts going away within a few minutes of giving him Benadryl.
But it is still an awful experience for everyone, so I would encourage calling your pediatrician and seeing if they would recommend allergy testing if your child has an allergic reaction to any food.
And yes, I now have Benadryl at home at all times, as well as in our son’s daycare lunch bag.
What Happens If My Child Does Not Have A Reaction
Once the test is complete, the nurse will observe your child for another one to two hours. If all is well, this means your child is not allergic to the food! The doctor will send you home with specific instructions on how to add this food to your childs diet. Your allergist may recommend a schedule for introducing the food and how often to keep the food in your childs regular diet.
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What Is It Used For
Food allergy testing is used to find out if you or your child has an allergy to a specific food. It may also be used to find out whether you have a true allergy or, instead, a sensitivity to a food.
Food sensitivity, also called food intolerance, is often confused with a food allergy. The two conditions can have similar symptoms, but complications can be very different.
A food allergy is an immune system reaction that can affect organs throughout the body. It can cause dangerous health conditions. Food sensitivity is usually much less serious. If you have a food sensitivity, your body can’t properly digest a certain food, or a food bothers your digestive system. Symptoms of food sensitivity are mostly limited to digestive problems such as abdominal pain, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.
Common food sensitivities include:
- Lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. It may be confused with a milk allergy.
- MSG, an additive found in many foods
- Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and other grains. It is sometimes confused with a wheat allergy. Gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies are also different from celiac disease. In celiac disease, your immune system damages your small intestine when you eat gluten. Some of the digestive symptoms can be similar, but celiac disease is not a food sensitivity or a food allergy.