Coping with Food Allergies

Food allergies can be rough on children and their families. Children, especially if they are older, may feel depressed or angry about having foods taken away from them. Younger children may feel frustrated about not being able to eat the things their friends are eating, and may not fully understand why they have been put on special diets.

Parents and family members of children with food allergies deal with a full range of emotions, as well. They often feel worried about how their child will feel and be accepted by others. Some feel sad or guilty about taking foods, especially those the child enjoys, away. Others experience varying degrees of stress or anxiety. If you have a child with a food allergy, consider these tips to help your child and other family members cope with some of the challenges:

• Education is the key. Sit down with family members, teachers, friends, coaches and other people important in your child’s life. Explain the allergy and why it is so important that your child stay away from his or her suspected allergens.

• Be an advocate for your child at school, church, sports or any activity they may be involved in.

• Join a support group, online forum or talk with someone going through the same situation.

• Seek out reliable resources such as apfed.org, foodallergy.org and kidswithfoodallergies.org.

• If your child is on a “formula only” diet, make the formula as cold as possible to minimize its strong odor and taste. Consider making it a smoothie with ice in the blender.

• Change family outings to things that are not food- related. Consider arts and crafts, hiking, swimming, music and games.

• When preparing meals for the rest of your family, try to stay away from making your child’s favorite dishes that contain his or her allergens.

• Remove, from the house, treats and snacks that contain your child’s allergens so that they are not reminded of them. Encourage siblings and family members not to eat foods containing the allergens as well – at least not in front of your child.

• Children with extreme allergies may have all foods removed from their diets and may struggle with the idea of celebrating their birthdays without cake. Make the child a “cake” out of something that isn’t edible. This way they can still blow out the candles. Encourage your child’s siblings to select birthday party themes and the like that do not center around food.

The most important thing a family can do to help a child with food allergies is to stay united and supportive. By being careful about what is eaten in front of the child and changing the way the entire family relates to food—as nutrition, instead of a means of celebration or emotional support—life with allergies will be a little easier for both your child and the family.

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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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Peanut Allergies: What Parents Should Know

In recognition of Food Allergies Awareness Week, May 13-19, check out these helpful facts about one of the most common food allergies – peanuts.

Peanuts often find their way into things you wouldn’t imagine. Chili, for example, may be thickened with ground peanuts. Other foods that can contain peanuts or peanut products are baked goods, health bars, salad dressings, soups, among others.

Additional foods that can cause allergies include, eggs, milk, tree nuts, soy,wheat, fish/shellfish.

An allergy to peanuts, like other food allergies, usually develops during a child’s first few years. If your child is allergic to peanuts, she should avoid peanut butter, beer nuts, peanut oil, mandelonas, peanut flour, marzipan and nougat.

Reactions to foods, like peanuts, can vary. Some reactions can be very mild and involve only one system of the body, like hives on the skin. Other reactions can be more severe and involve more than one part of the body.

Common symptoms include: hives or swelling of the skin, vomiting or nausea, wheezing, worsening of underlying eczema, low blood pressure or shock.

The most severe reaction, called anaphylaxis, is when several symptoms happen at once, including swelling of the breathing tubes and low blood pressure. If you think your child is having a severe reaction, seek emergency care immediately.

If your child has a reaction to any food, talk with your child’s pediatrician about allergy testing. If results show that your child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, your child’s pediatrician will recommend the proper treatment plan.

See more information about peanut allergies and other food allergies.

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