Pediatric Food Allergies – Symptoms and Treatment
Greater than 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies – that translates to 1/13 children or 2 children/average classroom. Food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylactic or life threatening allergic reactions. There are 8 foods that account for 90% of food allergies. They include the following:
- Tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds)
Children may exhibit the following symptoms if they are having a reaction to a particular food.
- Tingling sensation in the mouth
- Swelling of the tongue and throat
- Rash – usually hives within 30-45 min of ingestion
- Eczema flare
- Vomiting and abdominal cramps
- Wheezing, increased cough and trouble breathing
- Drop in blood pressure or loss of consciousness
The following link describes how a child may describe a food reaction: http://www.foodallergy.org/file/child-reaction.pdf
The diagnosis of food allergies usually combines the efforts of the parent, pediatrician and a pediatric allergist. You will generally be referred to a pediatric allergist once the history indicates a possible food allergy. The following tests are usually performed and are further discussed in the link below.
- Skin prick testing – measures the presence of IgE to tested foods. If there is potential for allergy, there will be a “positive skin test” or a wheal formation.
- 50-60% of skin tests have the potential of having a false positive result. That means it may indicate an allergy when that food may not cause an actual reaction.
- For the reason mentioned above, skin testing is often confirmed with blood testing. The blood tests look for IgE specific to the food.
- If both blood and skin tests indicate positive results, there is a good chance that your child is allergic to that food.
- Allergists may also use oral food challenges and trial elimination diets.
http://www.foodallergy.org/diagnosis-and-testing – full details on food allergy testing
The following tests are not considered diagnostic of food allergies: http://www.foodallergy.org/diagnosis-testing/unproven-testing
Treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrin administered via an epi-pen that should be with the child wherever they go. In addition, paying careful attention to ingredient lists and providing safe substitutions for foods is essential to avoiding a serious reaction. The following links provide more information:
http://www.foodallergy.org/newly-diagnosed/food-allergy-field-guide – complete guide for newly diagnosed food allergies
http://www.foodallergy.org/file/emergency-care-plan.pdf – emergency reaction care plan
http://www.foodallergy.org/managing-food-allergies – tips for managing food allergies in different environments including school, home and restaurants
http://www.foodallergy.org/food-labels – reading food labels
http://www.foodallergy.org/file/tips-avoid-allergen.pdf – specifics of other names allergens go by
Learn to think ahead and plan for safe substitutions and read labels and ask about ingredients EVERY TIME
Be a pal:
- Don’t make jokes about food allergies because they are very serious.
- Don’t share food with friends who have food allergies.
- Wash hands after eating.
- Ask your friends what they are allergic to and help them avoid those foods.
- If a friend with food allergies becomes ill – get help immediately!!
Other helpful links: