Tips for Keeping the Home Safe for Kids with Food Allergies

Raising a child with a food allergy can be challenging enough, but what should families do when they have children with and without food issues? That’s a question CHOC Radio host Bryan Mundia recently asked Shonda Brown, a CHOC Children’s clinical dietitian who works in the hospital’s Eosinophilic Esophagitis Clinic.

There are many things a family should consider before deciding to rid the house of one child’s food allergens, thereby restricting the diet of the entire family. The ease of removing particular items from the home and the severity of the allergy are just two things to keep in mind, says Shonda.

In this podcast, Shonda offers tips for keeping the home safe for kids with allergies, without preventing other members of the family from enjoying foods they enjoy.

Food Allergy Resources for Families

Having a child with a food allergy can be challenging at times, but with care and menu planning, these kids can lead happy and healthy lives free of allergic reactions.food_allergy_families

“These kids can live a normal life and with proper education, this problem is very manageable,” says Dr. Mark. Ellis, director of the allergy, asthma and immunology program at CHOC Children’s.

Dr. Ellis says that food allergies are becoming more common, but while many hypotheses about the increase exist, none are supported by the medical research.

CHOC offers families many educational resources to help handle food allergies, including nutritional support and dietary advice.  A CHOC dietitian can ensure the child’s diet is nutritionally sound, Dr. Ellis says. Patients can also visit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a nonprofit organization that offers food allergy information.

Even parents of children without known food allergies should know the symptoms of an allergic attack. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers this list of the most common symptoms:

  • Skin problems
  • Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
  • Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
  • Swelling
  • Breathing problems
  • Sneezing or wheezing
  • Throat tightness
  • Stomach symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Circulation symptoms
  • Pale skin
  • Light-headedness
  • Loss of consciousness

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What Parents Can do Now to Prevent Allergy Flares Next Holiday Season

Before hastily packing away holiday decorations into the garage, parents can take a few simple steps now to help prevent a sudden surge of allergy symptoms in children next holiday season, say CHOC allergists.

Dr. Wan-Yin Chan recommends that parents wipe down and air dry holiday decorations before packing them away to help minimize dust and mold accumulation when they return again next year. These allergens can prompt sudden allergy symptoms attacks in children, a phenomenon some doctors refer to as the “holiday effect.”

Dust from orna20130425_0505ments and decorations, mold from Christmas trees, exposure to new foods, and visits with others’ pets during the holidays can trigger these attacks in children and adults alike.

Holiday gatherings and spending more time indoors tends to expose people to other allergic triggers that they may not usually be exposed to during other times of the year,” says Dr. Sarah Field.

When the holidays roll around again next year, parents can take measures to prevent allergy and asthma symptoms.

Though comforting and festive to some, the fragrance emitted from a fresh tree may be irritating to others, and some trees may harbor mold spores, which can trigger asthma or allergies, cautions Dr. Field.

To combat this, Dr. Chan suggests adults leave a new Christmas tree to dry in the garage for a week and then shake it out before bringing into the home. Taking the same precautions recommended before packing away ornaments can also help eliminate the introduction of dust and mold into the home when decorating begins, she adds.

Traveling or even visiting homes of others can introduce other allergic or asthmatic symptoms.

Parents should ensure that children take any regular maintenance asthma and allergy medications, especially if traveling. They should also have an updated asthma action plan from their physician for asthma worsening.

Those with food allergies should inquire about ingredients in dishes served at others’ homes, Dr. Field says. Consider eating before visiting or bringing snacks from home, and be sure to bring an epinephrine autoinjector in case of accidental exposure, she says.

Children may also have an allergic reaction to new animals encountered in others’ homes, the doctors explain. Further, teenagers may suddenly experience allergy or asthma symptoms to their own pets after returning home from a semester at college. During their time away, the teen may lose tolerance to their pet. This phenomenon is called the “Thanksgiving effect,” explains Dr. Field.

Learn more about allergy and immunology at CHOC Children’s.

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It’s National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

It’s peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, a perfect time to educate yourself, as well as your family and friends about these conditions! Chances are, someone you know may be suffering from these common illnesses.

According to Kids Health, CHOC’s patient education online resource, Asthma is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing, and it’s common among kids and teens. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Anyone can have asthma, even infants, and the tendency to develop the condition is often inherited.

When someone breathes normally, air is taken in through the nose or mouth and then goes into the trachea (windpipe), passing through the bronchial tubes, into the lungs, and finally back out again. But people with asthma have inflamed airways that produce lots of thick mucus. They’re also overly sensitive, or hyperreactive, to certain things, like exercise, dust, or cigarette smoke. This hyperreactivity causes the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways to tighten up. The combination of airway inflammation and muscle tightening narrows the airways and makes it difficult for air to move through.

An estimated 75% to 85% of people with asthma have some type of allergy. Even if the primary triggers are colds or exercise, allergies – diseases of the immune system that cause an overreaction to substances, such as pollen – can sometimes play a minor role in aggravating the condition. An allergist can usually pinpoint allergies and, once identified, the best treatment is to avoid exposure to allergens whenever possible. Medications may also be prescribed.

Fortunately, asthma can be easily controlled and managed. Talk to your child’s health care provider about a customized asthma action plan. Make sure your child’s teachers and babysitters have copies of the action plan and understand what to do in an emergency.

CHOC is a leader in early detection and treatment of pediatric asthma, providing families the education they need to prevent asthma emergencies. If you suspect your child may have Asthma or Allergies, schedule an appointment with a CHOC Allergy/Immunology specialist, at 714-633-6363.

To learn more about these conditions, please visit these helpful sites:

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The Basics of Patch Testing for Food Allergies

It’s no secret that childhood allergies are on the rise. Patch testing is a common form of allergy testing that may be suggested by a child’s doctor as he or she works to diagnose the root of a child’s allergies.

Different than a blood test, in which blood is drawn, actual food is used to test how a child’s body reacts to its presence.  Foods tested typically include those in which the child has a history of reactions or may have tested positive for during other types of allergy testing. Typically, the foods are pureed and placed in small metal chambers. These chambers are securely taped to the child’s back so that they are in contact with the skin. The chambers are left in place for 48 hours.

After 48 hours, the patches can be removed at home, and after 72 hours from the placement of the patches, the patient returns to the doctor’s office to have the results “read” by the allergist.  The skin is examined for any reaction. While a reaction to the test does not always mean that the patient is allergic to the specific allergen, it does provide a guide for foods that may be causing the child’s allergic reactions.

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