According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, every 1 in 20 children has food allergies, making up 5.8% of the child population. Food allergies are when your child’s immune system reacts against otherwise harmless foods.
Food allergies can be tough to deal with, especially if your child has one. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to learn how to manage your child’s food allergies. This can be frustrating and challenging, but keeping your child safe and healthy is necessary.
Here are some tips on how to manage food allergies in children.
Tip #1 Understand Food Allergies in Children
The first step in managing food allergies in children is to understand what food allergies are. Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a particular food protein. This response can range from mild irritation to severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, the most common foods that trigger an allergic reaction in children include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.
Tip #2 Recognize Symptoms of Allergic Reaction
Food allergies can manifest in various ways, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:
- The development of hives
- An itchy or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
However, in more severe cases, an allergic reaction can lead to anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
Anaphylaxis can cause the airways to swell, making it hard to breathe, and can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, leading to shock.
If you suspect your child has an allergic reaction, administer the emergency medication (possibly epinephrine) prescribed by your allergist and seek medical help immediately. Be sure to inform the medical staff of known allergies to avoid complications.
Tip #3 Get an Allergy Test to Catch the Culprit of Your Child’s Allergies
There are several ways to test for allergies in children. The most common methods include the skin prick test, blood tests, elimination tests, and food challenge tests. Talk to your child’s allergist to determine the right type of food allergy test for your child.
In a skin prick test, the doctor pricks your child’s skin and places a small amount of possible allergy triggers. This test is quick, and results can be determined within 15 to 20 minutes.
Blood tests are also used to detect allergens, particularly for children diagnosed with asthma.
For some allergies, an elimination test may be conducted. This involves removing a suspected allergen from your child’s diet to see if symptoms improve.
Food challenge tests are used to check for food allergies. These tests involve giving your child small amounts of a suspected allergen under medical supervision to see if a reaction occurs.
Tip #4 Avoid Food Allergy Triggers
Once you know what your child is allergic to, it’s essential to avoid these triggers. Read food labels carefully and avoid food products that contain allergens.
Also, teach your child to recognize the allergen and avoid eating any food that may contain it. If you’re unsure about a particular food or ingredient, don’t buy the product before asking the manufacturer regarding the presence of the allergen.
When eating out, communicate with the restaurant staff about your child’s food allergies. Many restaurants now offer allergen-free menus. It’s also recommended to prepare meals at home and be aware of cross-contamination during food preparation.
Tip #5 Create an Emergency Plan
Even with the best preparation, allergic reactions can still occur. It’s important to create an emergency plan that outlines what to do if your child experiences an allergic reaction.
This plan should include instructions on how to administer emergency treatment, contact information for emergency services, and contact information for your child’s allergist.
Tip #5 Seek Treatment of Your Child’s Food Allergies
While there is no definitive treatment for food allergies, certain treatments can reduce the severity of allergic reactions and help children manage their condition. One of these treatments is OIT or oral immunotherapy.
It involves exposing your child to a food allergen in small but gradually increasing doses over time. The aim of OIT is for your child to become desensitized to food so they can eat it without an allergic reaction.
Your child’s allergist can also recommend other treatments, such as antihistamines, to treat your child’s allergies.
Food Allergy Treatment in Illinois
Managing food allergies in children may be challenging, but it’s essential for your child’s safety and well-being. If you’re unsure of how to manage your child’s food allergies, visit our board-certified allergists here at Oak Brook Allergists in northeast Illinois.
We offer allergy testing to identify the culprit of your child’s food allergies and develop a personalized treatment plan, which may consist of allergen avoidance strategies, medications such as epinephrine autoinjectors and antihistamines, and oral immunotherapy.
If you would like to know more about us or want to set up a consultation with one of our allergists, contact us today at (630) 574-0460 or fill out our online appointment request form now. We look forward to helping you!