Food allergies can be tough for kids — and their caregivers — to deal with. We asked Elaine Cudnik, advanced practice nurse practitioner with Renown Medical Group – Pediatrics, to offer some advice for families navigating food allergies.
About three million kids in the United States have food allergies — that’s 3 million children and their families who have to make careful choices each day for their optimal health. How can we make living with a food allergy easier for everyone? We asked Elaine Cudnik, APRN, with Renown Medical Group, for help.
First, what is a food allergy?
Food allergies happen when our immune system makes an error. Our immune system typically protects us from germs and disease by making antibodies to help fight off bacteria, viruses and other small organisms that can make us sick. When you have a food allergy, your immune system is mistakenly treating that food as if it’s dangerous to you.
How do you know if your child has a food allergy?
A food allergy is discovered when your immune system overreacts to a food or a substance in a food, identifying it as a danger and triggering a protective response. Unfortunately, most parents won’t know if their child has a food allergy until they try the food for the first time and have a reaction. So, it’s important for care givers to be aware of the signs of food allergies, which typically develop within a few minutes to an hour after eating the offending food.
Food allergy symptoms include:
- congestion, runny nose
- dizziness, lightheadedness
- itching around the mouth or ears
- red, itchy bumps on the skin (hives)
- red, itchy rash (eczema)
- shortness of breath, trouble breathing
- stomach pain
- strange taste in the mouth
- swelling of the lips, tongue and/or face
What if I think my child has an allergy?
If you suspect your child has a food allergy, you should make an appointment with your child’s care provider, who can identify which food is causing the issue and develop a treatment plan. Sometimes, medicines like antihistamines are needed to treat the symptoms. No medication can cure a food allergy, so the best form of treatment is typically to avoid the allergen and foods containing the allergen. Carefully read all food labels and avoid cross-contamination whenever possible, i.e. a knife used in peanut butter and then in the jelly jar may leave traces of peanut butter in the jelly potentially causing a reaction when the jelly is used another day. Ensure caregivers, teachers and anyone spending a significant amount of time with your child is aware of the allergy and remind your child not to share or taste another child’s food.
Can kids outgrow allergies?
You can outgrow your allergies. In fact, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says more than one-quarter of children in the United States with a history of a food allergy will outgrow it and most will do it by age 10. Be warned, though: kids can outgrow allergies, but they can also grow into new ones so caregivers should always be on the lookout.