Food allergies can be a huge damper on any kid. They feel like they’re missing out on that delicious chocolate peanut butter combination or scrambled eggs in the morning. But, as a parent, it’s our responsibility to make our children’s food allergies easily avoidable, rather than a daily game of tug of war.
The Most Common Food Allergies
5.9 million children in the United States have food allergies and 30 percent of those kids have more than one food allergy. Within a ten year period, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy has more than tripled in U.S. children. The top 8 food allergies in children are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and crustacean shellfish.
These are serious statistics, and if you are a parent of a child with food allergies, we know how challenging it can be. Let’s dive into a few things we need to know and can do for our children with food allergies.
Even though all food allergies are important to be aware of, not all allergies are severe. Some allergies result in a belly ache or a constant cough and won’t result in anaphylaxis. It’s still best for your children to steer clear of these foods, but it isn’t life threatening if they come in contact with their allergen.
One extremely common allergy misconception is that being lactose intolerant is the same as having a milk allergy. Food allergies attack the immune system, food intolerances do not. It’s important to distinguish between the two. If your child is getting belly aches from milk, it may be an intolerance. Your child’s pediatrician can do tests to confirm whether your child is experiencing an allergy or just an intolerance.
Another common mistake made, even by doctors, is diagnosing children with asthma. A common symptom of wheat and gluten allergies is wheezing. A lot of the time, cutting these foods out of your child’s diet will improve their breathing tremendously. So if your child has been diagnosed with asthma, this is definitely something worth trying.
If your child has a severe food allergy, then you know what anaphylactic shock is as it can be terrifying. This severe allergic reaction is life threatening to your child and it is crucial you know the symptoms of a said reaction. Your child’s doctor will certainly give you a complete list of symptoms but some to look out for include:
- Skin rashes and itching and hives
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Shortness of breath, trouble breathing, wheezing
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea
Be prepared. Keep an emergency kit on you at all times in case an allergic reaction arises. When your child is going to a friends house or to visit their grandparents, provide their guardian with an emergency kit, too. Epinephrine, or commonly called the EpiPen®, is used to treat anaphylaxis. This should be with your child at all times, no matter what. If your kid is old enough to travel without you, make sure they know the steps to take, as well.
Know How to Read Food Labels
Ever look at the back of a granola bar or cereal box and not know what half of the ingredients are? Yeah, us too! If you have a child with food allergies it’s extremely important to educate yourself on the hidden names for allergens. The FDA food allergen label law requires foods to state if they contain a top 8 food allergen. Foods that contain these allergens must say so in plain English. But, there are many foods and products that are not covered by the law which is why it’s necessary to learn these hidden labels. Some products you might find hidden names on are:
- Foods that are not regulated by the FDA
- Cosmetics & personal care products
- Prescription & over-the-counter medications
- Pet food, toys & crafts
In order to keep your kid safe from the ingredients, you’re unsure about, visit this website for an easy guide to reading labels.
A common misconception is that the foods your child is allergic to can’t be replaced. Eggs, dairy, and other food allergens can be easily replaced in your recipes. In baking, you can use pureed or fruits or root vegetables, chia seeds, or a combination of water-oil-baking-powder in place of eggs. To substitute dairy, you could give soy, rice, almond, or coconut milk a try. There are even dairy-free cheeses for when your kid wants to have a pizza party!
Food allergies with kids are a serious matter. As a parent or guardian, we are in charge of educating our children on their own food allergies and what to do if they come in contact with one. We hope these tips helped ease your mind and help you create a plan of action for your kid with food allergies. For more mom advice, visit our blog. If you have any specific mom questions, Ask Ali!