Kids Health Watch is brought to you by our friends and Magnolia Springs Pediatrics
Did you know that approximately 4/100 children under the age of 18 have severe food allergies? And unfortunately, over the past 25 years, this number has continued to increase! So what now? In this day and age there is so much information and misinformation out there that it can get confusing. So today, I will simplify some of this data, what it really means for your child, and what to look for.
So yes, the number of severe food allergies is increasing. Now, I’m not talking about the one time your child ate something and threw up, so now you never give it to them again. Or when your child had strawberries, and the skin around their lips turned red for twenty minutes. And I’m not talking about parents who make food choices for their child based on preference, not an actual diagnosed allergy.
How do you know if your child has an allergy? Common symptoms include the onset of a raised red rash called hives, immediate vomiting and/or diarrhea, mouth or lip swelling, chronic eczema and/ or cough and wheezing. The hard part is it could be one or all of these. In addition, it could be caused by something other than a food allergy.
So what do you do? First, take a deep breath. Get out your phone and take a picture or video. Then, call your child’s doctor immediately for a plan. Typically, this involves giving an oral antihistamine followed by heading to their office or the ER based on the severity of symptoms. I like a picture or video because often, by the time you have given your child medication and arrived at my office, the symptoms have resolved, and it’s near impossible to diagnose the problem accurately. Sometimes, the symptoms are severe and require other medications like steroids, epinephrine, and even an overnight stay in the hospital.
How do you proceed as a parent? How can you prevent this from happening? Well, it’s tricky. In the past, the AAP developed guidelines that essentially recommended holding off on highly allergenic foods like peanuts, eggs, and shellfish until two to three years of life. Now, new data suggests that introducing these foods earlier might reduce the chance of lifelong allergy! But, it’s complicated based on the presence of eczema and family history of food allergies, and there are different guidelines based on these findings.
Ultimately, your best plan is to work with your child’s doctor to discuss these topics and develop a game plan. It can be overwhelming because social media and Google give you twenty different answers, making it hard to tell what you can trust. I recommend talking with a trained medical professional, not the blogger online who tells you all you are doing wrong! As parents, we must make many choices for our children- so bounce it off the doctor and not the internet.
Robert L. Rux, M.D. is a Board Certified Pediatrician at Magnolia Springs Pediatrics. Originally from Mobile, he attended medical school at The University of Alabama School of Medicine (UAB) and completed residency at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama (UAB).