While many are dealing with pesky seasonal allergies as the Earth begins to bloom this spring, others are dealing with a more severe form of allergy: food allergies. May is Food Allergy Awareness Month, and awareness really is key in this disease. If you or someone you love suffers from food allergies, you likely know the fear and frustration that can take place.
A food allergy is a serious and life-threatening medical condition that affects 32 million Americans; every three minutes, someone is sent to the emergency room due to a food allergy reaction. This can be especially fearful for parents of young children, considering that one in 13 children has an allergy to some food. Not all foods necessarily cause anaphylactic reactions, but they still need to be avoided. The tricky part is that not all food allergens are easily spotted. It’s important for you and your child to become a food label detective.
Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances
Food allergies involve your immune system and can be life-threatening. Food intolerances, on the other hand, are much less severe and involve your body not digesting or tolerating a food well. While intolerances can be extremely uncomfortable and may affect quality of life, they will not cause life-threatening reactions. For this reason, one will likely choose not to consume the offending food, but he or she doesn’t need to avoid it at all cost.
Can My Child Outgrow His or Her Allergy?
Possibly. Some allergies, such as peanut, tree nut and shellfish allergies, are typically lifelong. Some kids will grow out of their milk allergy by early toddler years. Egg, wheat and soy allergies, which typically begin in childhood, can also potentially be outgrown. However, there is no guarantee that a child will outgrow his or her allergies, and at this time allergies cannot be cured. If you think your child may have outgrown their allergy, always check with your allergist before introducing any foods.
Additional Concerns for Children
Having one food allergy is difficult in itself, but many kids suffer from multiple food allergies. If your child has more than one, or even all of the top eight food allergens, it’s very important to find appropriate food substitutions so they receive all of their nutrition. A lot of times, kids with food allergies have difficulty consuming enough calories. Work with your allergist or registered dietitian to ensure your child is meeting all of his or her needs for growth and development. Often an oral supplement is needed, and there are allergy-free supplement options that can be discussed with your health care provider.