BY RICK VOAKES, MD
Food Allergy in Children
Food allergies in children can be fatal, especially if they are the immediate hypersensitivity type, which is characterized by hives, wheezing and shock (very low blood pressure). If your child has documented urticaria or anaphylaxis from eating a food, you will need to alter your family's lifestyle in order to prevent a tragedy from happening. This includes being very cautious about any traces of the offending food being eaten. Even using cooking utensils that have touched food allergens could give enough exposure to cause death. Parents and older children will have to be complulsive about reading labels on all foods eaten. Never eat foods that have unknown ingredients.
Food allergies can be fatal.
A study inFood Allergy Newsin May 2007 reported 63 cases of fatal reactions to foods. This is what they discovered:
The most common foods that cause deadly allergic reactions arepeanuts and tree nuts, accounting for 90%.
The other 10% were fish, shrimp and milk products.
75% of those who died were already known to have asthma. Treatingwith an inhaler did not prevent death.
86% already knew they were allergic to the food they ate.
Fatal reactions occurred in many locations (restaurants, schools,workplaces, festivals) but rarely at home.
Food came from other sources (restaurants, schools and homes offriends), not from the family.
In some cases, parents and patients forgot to ask if the food containedthe food they are allergic to.
In other cases, they asked but were told incorrectly that the food wasnot included.
Types of food included desserts and candy (35%) and Mexican andAsian entrees (20%).
Epinephrine was given in a timely manner in only 13% of cases. (This important! Carry your epi-pen!!)
What Can Be Done?
Make sure your Epi-pen is not expired. If your child just passed 55 pounds, it's time to graduate from Epi-pen Jr to to the adult Epi-pen. Always carry it with you. An allergic reaction will always happen when you least expect it!
When eating away from home: avoid desserts, or foods cooked in sauces.
At restaurants, ask the manager if foods contain peanuts or peanut oil (for example), don't rely on waiters or guessing from the menu.
Have an action plan ready in case food allergy is suspected. When you decide that food allergy is possible, carry out the plan immediately: give epinephrine, call 911. Don't delay.
If you are food allergic, and have an asthma attack after eating (!) use epinephrine first, then your inhaler. It might be food allergy, not just asthma!
Desserts and cookies were a common cause of deadly reactions.
Read all food labels all the time. Don't make assumptions if a food is similar to what you usually eat!
Talk to the parents of your child's friends. Make sure they know what your child is allergic to, and what to do in case of a reaction.
Join a food allergy support group, such as FEAST in the Bowling Green area. You can learn a lot from the other families and the allergy professionals who are involved.