Affecting nearly 6 million children in the United States, food allergies are a growing safety and public health concern that can be life-threatening.1 As a true immune response of the body identifying certain foods as harmful,2 food allergy reactions can range from mild (eg, itchy mouth) to severe and potentially deadly (ie, anaphylaxis). Although there is no cure for food allergies, reactions can be prevented through strict avoidance of food allergens,2 and quality of life can be improved by promoting safety and awareness.1 Here we provide 5 tips for managing food allergies in children2,3:
- Learn Signs and Avoid Allergens
In addition to knowing what foods can cause allergic reactions to your child and actively avoiding them, it is helpful to learn signs and symptoms of allergic reactions. It may also be useful to consider having your child wear an identification bracelet that describes his or her allergies.
- Read Food Labels Carefully
In the United States and many other nations, it is a requirement that major food allergens be listed in common language, so it is important to read food labels with caution. These major food allergens—milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish—are the cause for 90% of food allergy reactions.
- Practice Emergency Preparedness
Have a plan of action in place for food allergies and anaphylaxis that tells everyone what they need to do in the event your child has an allergic reaction. If a reaction occurs, your child should be taken to the emergency department, regardless of whether their symptoms subside.
- Keep Epinephrine Handy
You should always have 2 epinephrine autoinjectors available at home, at your child’s school, and with your child anywhere he or she goes. Family members and other people close to your child should be taught how to administer epinephrine.
- Visit a Physician or Allergist Regularly
At least once a year, your child should be taken to see a physician or allergist. If your son or daughter has asthma, the minimum should be ≥2 times per year. In the event of an allergic reaction and subsequent hospital visit, a follow-up appointment should be made with the allergist.
- Food Allergy Research & Education. React with respect: Food Allergy Awareness Week. www.foodallergy.org/file/faam-fact-sheet.pdf. Published 2016. Accessed July 12, 2016.
- St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Food allergy management and education. www.stlouischildrens.org/health-resources/advocacy-outreach/food-allergy-management-and-education. Accessed July 12, 2016.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Food allergy. www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/food-allergy. Accessed July 12, 2016.