11 May Common Food Allergies in Children
According to John Hopkins medicine, eggs, milk, and peanuts are the most common causes of food allergies in children, with wheat, soy, and tree nuts also included. Peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish commonly cause the most severe reactions. Nearly 5 percent of children under the age of five years have food allergies. From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18 percent among children under age 18 years. Although most children “outgrow” their allergies, allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish may be lifelong.
Allergic symptoms may begin within minutes to an hour after ingesting the food. The following are the most common symptoms of food allergy. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms include..
- Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth
- Itching or tightness in throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Lowered blood pressure
There is no medication to prevent food allergy. The goal of treatment is to avoid the foods that cause the symptoms. Some children, under the direction of his or her health care provider, may be given certain foods again after three to six months to see if he or she has outgrown the allergy. Many allergies may be short-term in children and the food may be tolerated after the age of 3 or 4.
If your child has one or more food allergies, dining out can be a challenge. However, it is possible to have a healthy and satisfying dining-out experience; it just takes some preparation and persistence on your part.
The American Dietetics Association offers these tips for dealing with food allergies when your family is eating away from home.
- Know what ingredients are in the foods at the restaurant where you plan to eat. When possible, obtain a menu from the restaurant ahead of time and review the menu items.
- Let your server know from the beginning about your child’s food allergy. He or she should know how each dish is prepared and what ingredients are used. Ask about preparation and ingredients before you order. If your server does not know this information or seems unsure of it, ask to speak to the manager or the chef.
- Avoid buffet-style or family-style service, as there may be cross-contamination of foods from using the same utensils for different dishes.
- Avoid fried foods, as the same oil may be used to fry several different foods.
Alternately, there are several types of allergy cards available on the internet that can be customized with your child’s personal information. One example is the Food Allergy Buddy Dining Card, promoted by the National Restaurant Association.
The Food Allergy Initiative, in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, has developed the Food Allergy Training Program for Restaurants and Food Services. This training program was developed to help restaurants and other food service outlets to ensure their customers, including those with food allergies, will receive a safe meal prepared to customer specifications.