Fact #: All Food Allergic Children Should Carry Epinephrine
Antihistamines can be used to relieve mild allergy symptoms, such as a skin rash or a one-time episode of GI symptoms. However, if a child is having anaphylaxis or difficulty breathing the child needs an injection of epinephrine.
A delay in treatment can be life-threatening, so its important children with food allergies have an emergency plan, have an epinephrine injector on hand and know how to use it. It is important to have 2 injectors with the child and not split a 2 pack up, as some children will need the second dose. After using epinephrine or if youre with a child and they dont have an injector call 9-1-1 immediately.
What Is Food Intolerance
A food intolerance isn’t the same as a food allergy.
People with food intolerance may have symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating and stomach cramps. This may be caused by difficulties digesting certain substances, such as lactose. However, no allergic reaction takes place.
Important differences between a food allergy and a food intolerance include:
- the symptoms of a food intolerance usually occur several hours after eating the food
- you need to eat a larger amount of food to trigger an intolerance than an allergy
- a food intolerance is never life threatening, unlike an allergy
Read more about food intolerance.
Page last reviewed: 15 April 2019 Next review due: 15 April 2022
How Are Food Allergies Treated
A child who has a food allergy should always have two epinephrine auto-injectors nearby in case of a severe reaction. 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. Always have two auto injectors nearby in case one doesn’t work or your child needs a second dose.
The doctor can also give you an allergy action plan, which helps you prepare for, recognize, and treat an allergic reaction. Share the plan with anyone else who needs to know, such as relatives, school officials, and coaches. Wherever your child is, caregivers should always know where the epinephrine is, have easy access to it, and know how to give the shot. Also consider having your child wearing a medical alert bracelet.
Time matters in an allergic reaction. If your child starts having serious allergic symptoms, like trouble breathing or throat tightness, use the epinephrine auto-injector right away. Also use it right away if symptoms involve two different parts of the body, like hives with vomiting. Then call 911 and have them take your child to the emergency room. Medical supervision is important because even if the worst seems to have passed, a second wave of serious symptoms can happen.
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Fact #: Most Foods Cannot Cause An Airborne Reaction
A significant allergic reaction can only happen when the food is ingested. Walking in a room where theres an open jar of peanut butter and smelling the food wont cause someone with a peanut allergy to have an allergic reaction.
Many schools have peanut-free or allergen-free lunch tables but isolating kids from friends is not the answer. School-aged children can safely navigate the world by not sharing food and washing hands properly.
What Are The Symptoms Of Anaphylaxis
Symptoms of anaphylaxis generally include two or more of these body systems.
- Skin: hives, swelling , itching, warmth, redness
- Respiratory : coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness, throat tightness, hoarse voice, nasal congestion or hay fever-like symptoms , trouble swallowing
- Gastrointestinal : nausea, pain/cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
- Cardiovascular : paler than normal skin colour/blue colour, weak pulse, passing out, dizziness or lightheadedness, shock
- Other: anxiety, sense of doom , headache, uterine cramps, metallic taste
However, a drop in blood pressure without other symptoms may also indicate anaphylaxis. It is important to know that anaphylaxis can occur without hives.
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Are Food Allergies On The Rise
To answer this question simply: yes.
The Center for Disease control estimates about a 50% increase in the rate of food allergies diagnosed in children under age 18.
Why are food allergies increasing? Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question. There are several popular theories for the increase in food allergies.
What Causes Food Allergies
Food allergies happen when the immune system the body’s defence against infection mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat.
As a result, a number of chemicals are released. It’s these chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are certain foods that are responsible for most food allergies.
Foods that most commonly cause an allergic reaction are:
- some fruit and vegetables
Most children that have a food allergy will have experienced eczema during infancy. The worse the child’s eczema and the earlier it started, the more likely they are to have a food allergy.
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Why Food Allergies Are Surging
A baby who cannot tolerate milk due to an allergy.
Like any life-threatening medical condition that affects children, food allergies can traumatize more than just the patient. My wife and I learned this one summer afternoon when our daughter was three years old.
Emergency room visits for anaphylaxis in children more than doubled from 2010 to 2016.
At an ice cream parlor, I gave Samantha a lick of my pistachio cone within seconds, red blotches erupted on her skin, her lips began to swell, and she complained that her throat felt funny. We rushed her to the nearest emergency room, where a doctor injected her with epinephrine. Explaining that the reaction, known as anaphylaxis, could have been fatal if left unchecked, he advised us to have her tested for nut allergiesand to start carrying an injector of our own.
After an allergist confirmed Sam’s vulnerability to tree nuts and peanuts, we figured that keeping her safe would be relatively simple. But food allergies often come in bunches. Over the next year, she wound up back in the ER after eating bread with sesame seeds at an Italian restaurant, and again after slurping buckwheat noodles at our neighborhood Japanese. She hated eggs, so we discovered that allergy only when she vomited after eating a variety of products containing them.
Meanwhile, scientists are racing to develop therapies that can induce patients’ hyped-up immune defenses to chill. And lately, they’ve made some big strides toward that goal.
Helping A Child With A Persistent Cough Runny Nose And Wheezing
Gary was four years old when his mother brought him to my Integrative Pediatric Office. Hed had a persistent cough for several months. Throughout the past two years, hed suffered from recurrent bouts of cough, runny nose, and wheezing that required an Albuterol inhaler. For the wheezing, hed taken one course of oral steroids, which he did not tolerate. His behavior became erratic, with irritability, mood swings, and sleep troubles.
At that point, his mother knew she never wanted him to take oral steroids again. She decided to switch to an integrative pediatrician . Her rationale was that the conventional medical approach aimed to control his symptoms, while her intuition was telling her his chronic cough and congestion had some underlying cause that wasnt being addressed.
Garys mother and I combed through his history. Besides the symptoms above, as an infant, he was extremely fussy and colicky. During the office visit, I observed he was a mouth breather, had a runny nose and dark, puffy circles under his eyes, and his breathing was audible . Together, these signs pointed to uncontrolled systemic inflammation.
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Food Allergies: Are More Kids Allergic To Food Or Are We Just More Aware
From peanut-free school lunches to gluten-free birthday parties. If it seems like more and more kids have food allergies these days youre not alone in that thought. Most likely youve even had discussions with other parents about how food allergies werent an issue when you were growing up, and that everyone ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches back in our day.
Prevalence Of Childhood Food Allergy
Up to one-third of parents report adverse food reactions in their young children, although the rates of verifiable food allergy are much lower. Non-immunologic adverse reactions account for the bulk of adverse food reactions. Food sensitization and/or allergy occur in approximately 5 to 10% of young children, with peak prevalence at approximately one year of age. In office skin and blood testing that measures sensitization to food allergens can often overestimate the prevalence of true allergic reactions to foods because not all sensitized children will develop symptoms upon ingestion. Most food allergies develop in the first or second year of life. The peak prevalence of food allergies is approximately 6-8% at one year of age, although reported food challenge-confirmed food allergy rates can be as high as 11%. Prevalence then falls progressively until late childhood, after which it remains stable at approximately 3-4%.
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Fact #: Food Allergy Is Not The Same As Food Intolerance
Most people don’t understand there is a big difference between the two. A food allergy involves the immune system and can be life-threatening, while a food intolerance tends to only be the GI system and is never life-threatening.
Someone with a food allergy can never eat the food they are allergic to because theyll have a reaction each and every time. During an allergic reaction, the immune system releases histamine and other chemicals to try and fight off the food allergen. Symptoms can also impact more than one body system, which include:
- Skin: hives, rash, itching
- Lung: repetitive cough, difficulty breathing
- Abdomen: immediate vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Mouth: swelling tongue and lips
- Nose: immediate runny nose, sneezing and itching
- Throat: change in voice, trouble swallowing, drooling
- Heart: fainting, dizziness, loss of consciousness
- Other: sense of impending doom, doesn’t feel right
Timing of symptoms is also key. Food allergy symptoms usually happen within two hours of ingesting the food. So a kid that wakes up the next day and complains of a bellyache is not having an allergic reaction.
Kids with food intolerances have trouble digesting food and may experience belly pain, gas and constipation. The most common intolerance is to lactose, which is a natural sugar in milk.
Fact #: Kids With Food Allergies Can Enjoy Activities Such As Going Out To Eat
The only way to treat a food allergy is avoidance of the allergen, so preparation is key. You can go out to eat, but plan ahead. Look at the restaurants website and ingredients. Call ahead and ask how food is prepared and if accommodations for food allergies can be made. Avoid buffets and salad bars where cross-contact from food allergens may occur. Carry a dining out card, which displays the food the child is allergic to that can be given to the chef. Kids can carry the cards so if theyre at a restaurant without their parents they can take responsibility for their food allergy and feel more involved in their treatment.
Its not just restaurants. Pack safe snacks for school and birthday parties, so kids can eat with everybody else. Same goes for when you fly with your children. In the airplane, be sure to wipe down tray tables and seats, and practice good hand-washing habits. Avoid letting small children crawl on the airplane floor.
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Treatment For Food Allergy
There is no medication to prevent food allergy. The goal of treatment is toavoid the foods that cause the symptoms. After seeing your child’s doctorand finding foods to which your child is allergic, it is very important toavoid these foods and other similar foods in that food group. If you arebreastfeeding your child, it is important to avoid foods in your diet towhich your child is allergic. Small amounts of the food allergen may betransmitted to your child through your breast milk and cause a reaction.
It is also important to give vitamins and minerals to your child if he orshe is unable to eat certain foods. Discuss this with your child’s doctor.
For children who have had a severe food reaction, your child’s health careprovider may prescribe an emergency kit that contains epinephrine, whichhelps stop the symptoms of severe reactions. Consult your child’s doctorfor further information.
Some children, under the direction of his or her health care provider, maybe given certain foods again after three to six months to see if he or shehas outgrown the allergy. Many allergies may be short-term in children andthe food may be tolerated after the age of 3 or 4.
Theories Which May Explain The Rise In Food Allergies
Did you know that 6 million children have food allergies in the US?
1 in 13 children are affected. Given the standard classroom size, that is two children per class!
These statistics are alarming but very accurate!
So how did we get here?
The truth is, we dont have one answer to explain this. The answer is likely multifactorial. We think that our rapid lifestyle change has contributed to this rise in food allergies over the past few decades.
Being a native of West Africa, my mother grew up in a country where roasted peanut protein is everywhere in the culture and is integrated very early on into the infant diet. So whenever my mother reads such statistics, she almost always mutters, We never had food allergies when we were growing up. She is exceedingly perplexed when she thinks about the fact that she has two grandchildren with severe food allergies.
As a food allergy parent, you may be interested in knowing where food allergies come from.For me personally, I wanted to know if there was something I could have done to prevent food allergies in my children. Could I have eaten different foods? Should I have avoided specific foods during pregnancy, and the list goes on and on..
Could I have done something to prevent this?
What are the current theories around the Food Allergy Epidemic?
1. Hygiene Hypothesis: We Live Clean.
2. Genetics: What role do genes play?
3. Vitamin D Theory: The Sunshine Vitamin.
4. Previous Food Allergy Recommendations
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Cross Reactivity And Oral Allergy Syndrome
When you have a life-threatening allergic reaction to a certain food, your doctor will probably recommend that you avoid similar foods, too. For example, if you react to shrimp, you’re probably allergic to other shellfish like crab, lobster, and crayfish. This is called cross-reactivity.
Another example of cross-reactivity is oral allergy syndrome. It happens in people who are highly sensitive to ragweed. During ragweed season, when they try to eat melons, especially cantaloupe, their mouths may itch. Similarly, people who have severe birch pollen allergy may also react to apple peels.
Issues Mistakenly Linked To Food Allergies
Although some people think certain illnesses can be caused by food allergies, evidence doesn’t back up such claims. Histamines in cheese or red wine, for example, can trigger migraines. But we can’t say that food allergies actually cause migraines. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis aren’t made worse by foods. Food allergies don’t cause “allergic tension fatigue syndrome,” where people get tired, nervous, and may have problems concentrating or headaches.
Cerebral allergy is a term that describes when mast cells are supposedly releasing their chemicals in the brain — and nowhere else in the body — causing trouble concentrating and headaches. Most doctors don’t recognize cerebral allergy as a disorder.
Even when their surroundings are very clean, some people have many general complaints like problems concentrating, fatigue, or depression. Environmental illness may be the result of small amounts of allergens or toxins, but not food allergies.
Researchers have found that hyperactivity in children may be related to food additives, but only occasionally and only when the child has had a lot of them. A food allergy won’t directly affect a child’s behavior, although their symptoms might make them cranky and difficult, and allergy medications can make them sleepy.
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Food Proteins In Vaccinations
There are others that suggest that food allergies are connected to the increase in vaccinations and the food proteins in the vaccines. There are studies that have demonstrated that food proteins that are in vaccinations induce food allergies. In the CDCc, Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices it states that those with allergies to egg proteins should avoid certain vaccines. Some vaccines include gelatin like the MMR, Chicken Pox, Flu Shot and DTaP. Anyone that has experienced an allergic reaction after eating gelatin should avoid gelatin-containing vaccines. The same goes for the vaccines that include bakers yeast, eggs and peanut oil. The number of vaccines suggested we give our children has tripled since 1980 and so have food allergies.
Remember even if you do have food allergies you can still be healthy. It all goes back to building our immune systems to be as strong as possible. If you have had vaccines, antibiotics at a young age, you havent been eating healthy and you have been too clean, you can still make changes and support your health. Walk barefoot on the ground outside in the sun while eating an apple and drinking a kombucha. The dirt, the sun, the food and the probiotics can help build your immune system back up and heal.
Do you have food allergies?
I would love to hear how you live with them and why you might think that food allergies are increasing!