As parents, we cherish the moments of joy, laughter, and growth in our children’s lives. Amidst these beautiful moments, we also run into some scary ones; their first fall off their bike, first high fever, first shot. These are all expected and anticipated issues. However, the increasing prevalence of food allergies has made introducing new foods another area of concern for parents. Understanding the truth about food allergies is the first step toward keeping your child safe as you introduce new foods.
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is an immune system response to specific foods. Unlike food intolerance, which doesn’t involve the immune system, allergies can range from uncomfortable sensations to life-threatening anaphylaxis. It’s important to distinguish between general discomfort and a true allergic reaction when dealing with suspected pediatric allergies.
Kid’s allergies often fall into what is commonly referred to as “the Big 8.” These are common food allergens that are required to be disclosed on food packaging. They include:
- Shellfish (crustacean)
- Tree nuts
Of course, these are not the only allergies. People can become allergic to anything, but these eight make up the majority of food allergies in the United States. While many children outgrow childhood allergies, those to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are more likely to follow children into adulthood.
Know the Signs
Allergic reactions may be very obvious in some people, while others may be less so. Knowing what to look for is vital because allergic reactions can progress quickly. Most allergic reactions will occur within only a few minutes of exposure, but it may take as long as a few hours.
Symptoms will vary, but mild reactions can include itching, hives, and mild swelling. Severe allergic reactions can include cramps, vomiting, swelling of the throat and tongue, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and lowered blood pressure, among others.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. If your child is having difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately.
Empowering Parents with Information
Understanding pediatric allergies is the first step for parents to make informed decisions. Take proactive measures such as:
Allergen Avoidance: Work with your child’s Primary Care Pediatrician to create a plan for allergen avoidance and what to do in case of exposure. Some allergens respond well to immunotherapy or desensitization, so talk with your doctor to find out what your best course of action is.
Emergency Preparedness: For severe allergies, having an emergency kit with prescribed medications, such as epinephrine, can be lifesaving.
Dining Out: Eating out can be challenging with food allergies, but it is still possible. It just requires some extra planning and preparation! Review the menu beforehand and determine what possible options are available for your child. Some restaurants, especially chains, will have an allergen menu online. Let your server know about the food allergies right away, and ask them to ensure your child’s meal is prepared with special attention paid to cleanliness to avoid cross-contamination. If your server seems unsure or unaware of how food is prepared, ask to speak with the manager or chef.
Navigating Kid’s Allergies with Knowledge and Support
Pediatric allergies can be a challenging journey, but armed with knowledge and supported by pediatric telehealth, parents can confidently navigate this terrain. Recognizing the signs, accessing timely medical advice, and collaborating with healthcare professionals create a robust strategy for managing pediatric allergies effectively. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Help, support, and advice are just a call away, thanks to pediatric telehealth from Hello Pediatrics.