Food Allergies: A Growing Problem

Food & Drink, Lifestyle

Many of us know at least one person who is allergic to peanuts.  If you’re ever around someone who has a severe food allergy, you have to be extremely careful that you don’t get the food anywhere near the person with the allergy, as it can be fatal to them.  This can be difficult, especially for children, to constantly have to be on the lookout for peanut exposure (or any other food one may have an allergy to).

Image from SOMMAI

In the United States, about 150 people of any age die from food allergies a year, 80 to 90 percent being from peanuts or tree nuts.  Parents should try to avoid exposing their children to problem foods, however, doctors suggest that it might be more important to prepare for slip-ups.

Robert Wood, pediatric allergy specialist of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, says, “We reassure parents that kids will have a reaction…. Somebody is going to make a mistake.  But we reassure parents that kids are not going to die.  These are preventable deaths.”

The most common food allergies in children are eggs, milk, and peanuts.  Peanuts, tree nuts, and certain types of fish usually cause the most severe reactions.  Between 2 and 4 percent of children have some type of food allergy.  Many children luckily outgrow their allergies, but in some cases, the allergy can be lifelong.

In any case, it is important for people to be prepared in case an accidental exposure does occur, which it very well might.  Parents should discuss the issue in depth with teachers and babysitters so that anyone who may be taking care of the child knows how to react if the child has a reaction.  Children with food allergies should be taught not to share food under any circumstances, as children don’t often know all of the ingredients included in their food and snacks.

Some schools have “nut-free” policies, but there are not many of these in place.  Children can usually carry epinephrine as long as they have a doctor’s order.  A teacher or school nurse should keep the injection on hand in case of an emergency.

A food allergy plan should be developed, and anyone who supervises the child at any time should be well-informed of that plan.  Within the plan should be specific instructions on how to prevent an allergic reaction, and what to do should a reaction occur.

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