Children's Food Allergies: August 12, 2011

Here’s food for thought before you send your child off to school. A national study found that almost 6 million children under the age of 18 suffer from food allergies. Thirty-eight percent of them had a history of severe reactions.

The news is most troubling for parents of young children.

“The types of reactions you get as a child are potentially very different than the types of reactions you get as an adult. They might just have intractable vomiting or significant diarrhea, not the hives and the closed up throat and difficulty breathing that you might get for an older person,” says Dr. Nancy Witham, a pediatrician with Lee Memorial Health System.

Dr. Witham warns that children can also experience significant breathing problems.

“Anaphylaxis being the worst case scenario of an allergy where the blood pressure drops and the heart rate either raises or drops.”

Ninety percent of food allergies are caused by eight foods: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and peanuts. The most common: peanuts, milk and shellfish.

It doesn’t take much to case an allergic reaction. In fact 1/44,000th of a peanut kernel can trigger a response in some children, which is why it’s important to arm your allergic child with the proper tools.

“For younger children we do recommend wearing the ID bracelets some sort of notification that suggests to other people that the child has a significant allergy,” says Dr. Witham.

Your doctor may also help you with an allergy action kit, and prescription medication for emergencies. But your first line of defense is education.