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Food Allergies and Your Child
(AUGUST 2013) It may seem like just yesterday that your little bundle of joy came into this world, yet today, your baby is already crawling at the speed of light and learning how to use a spoon to eat grown-up food. By eight months, your baby’s diet already includes a variety of grains, fruits, vegetables and protein, and by 24-months, there is almost nothing your baby can’t eat.
Introducing new foods to your child always poses a risk of a food allergy. The most common children’s food allergy is peanuts allergy, followed by dairy, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy and tree nuts. Currently the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4.6 percent of children under 18 years of age have a food allergy, double the number it was 20 years ago.
To be safe, most pediatricians recommend that a baby not be introduced to nuts, milk or soy until at least 12 months of age. Then, those foods should be introduced slowly, one by one, and parents should be on the lookout for allergy symptoms.
According to Dr. Michael Young, a graduate of Yale Medical School and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical Schools, most often food allergy symptoms include itchiness, hives, or a red rash around the child’s mouth where the food has come in contact with the skin. Children with severe allergies to food may experience swelling of the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and a low level of alertness.
What to Do
Infants who are too young to be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines should be taken to their pediatrician who can administer proper treatment. If your child is a bit older, your doctor may recommend using a low-dose antihistamine like children’s Benadryl or Claritin. If your child’s symptoms are severe, do not hesitate to call 911 or rush them to the nearest medical center.
Sometimes, a child may have a mild allergic reaction to a food the first time and a severe reaction the next time. If you fear that your child may have a food allergy, you can take them to an allergy specialist to test their tolerance to certain foods.
If your child is prescribed an EpiPen®, carefully use it at the sight of an allergy, but make sure to bring the child to a medical facility following treatment for monitoring. Sometimes, follow-up treatment is needed four to six hours following injection.
Make sure to read the food label on all products at home to reduce the risk of exposing your child to peanuts.
Register your child with the school cafeteria and make sure they provide peanut-free meals and peanut-free zones in the cafeteria.
Consider having your child wear an emergency medical identification bracelet like the ones from the Hope Paige Company, ensuring that in case of an emergency, your child can be given the proper treatment and care.