Friday, March 2, 2012

Kids and food allergies

St. Luke’s Health Watch

By Liz LeFevre

One of the newest "hot topics" in pediatric nutrition is food allergies, especially peanut allergies. Peanut allergies are of great concern due to the severity of reactions. Peanuts are not only in a variety of food items, but the residue can also be found in items that are processed in the same facility. While you can decrease the risk of exposure, complete avoidance is often difficult. Robert Wood, a pediatric allergy specialist, was cited in a U.S. News article stating that "kids will have a reaction. Somebody is going to make a mistake. But we reassure parents that kids are not going to die." Luckily, there are many things that can be done to decrease the risk of exposure.

If you believe that your child may have an allergy, the first step is to talk to your child's physician. Self-diagnosed and self-treated allergies can often cover other illness. Allergies are generally diagnosed with a basic blood test. It is also important to talk to your doctor about the possibility of other allergies. People with peanut allergies are more likely to have allergies to tree nuts.

If a peanut allergy is diagnosed, your child's doctor will likely talk to you about carrying an injectable epinephrine in case of accidental ingestion. However, you can avoid most reactions by carefully reading labels. Peanuts are a major allergen. Because of this, any item that has peanuts or was processed in a facility that makes items with nut products will list a warning on the nutritional label. However, it is still important to read the entire food label to ensure safety.

Many schools are also going "nut free." If your school is a "nut free" school, you should still use caution. Encourage your child to avoid homemade items if they do not know all the ingredients to avoid possible exposures.

Following these simple guidelines and your physician's advice will help to avoid accidental allergic reactions.

Liz LeFevre is a registered dietician at St. Luke's Wood River hospital.

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