Managing Food Allergies in Children
Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system sees a certain food as harmful and reacts by causing symptoms such as irritated skin, itchy nose and/or eyes, stomach issues, swelling, hoarseness, and wheezing. These symptoms are considered an allergic reaction. Foods that cause allergic reactions are called allergens. Common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish.
Managing food allergies can be overwhelming. Sentido Health is here to help you navigate through life with children who have food allergies. The key is to plan ahead and have good communication! In this blog, we will be covering topics such as cooking, eating out, get-togethers, talking with your child and doctor about food allergies, and teaching your child ways to take action. The goal is to provide you with useful tips that make managing food allergies easier for you and your family!
- Research recipes that are allergy-friendly so that you only have to cook 1 meal for the whole family
- Remember to wipe down kitchen surfaces and use clean bowls when cooking allergy-friendly meals to avoid cross-contamination
- Remember that allergens can be present in oil too, so when frying foods make sure you fry the allergen-friendly item first, then you can continue to use the oil for the non-allergen friendly items
- When eating out browse menu items online beforehand to review ingredients and identify safe options
- Ask if they have allergy-friendly menus or menu options
- Discuss dietary restrictions with your waiter when ordering
- Have a list of go-to restaurants that you are familiar with for those days that you are in a rush and need to pick up a quick meal
- When going to family gatherings consider offering to bring a dish that you know will be safe for the family member with an allergy
- Consider eating before/after an event, or pack your child’s meal to eat with others at the event
- Discuss food allergies with other family members or adults that may be involved in your child’s life
- Request that they ask you before giving them any food if they do not feel comfortable identifying possible allergens
TALKING WITH YOUR CHILD:
- Start discussing dietary allergies with your child at an early age. You’d be surprised how quickly someone as young as 2 or 3 can start communicating to others that they are not allowed to have certain foods
- Explain to young children that having food allergies means that certain foods can make their body very sick if they eat it
TEACHING YOUR CHILD TO TAKE ACTION:
- Teach children to say the items that they are allergic to
- Practice scenarios such as asking “Does this have peanuts? My mommy/doctor said I’m allergic to peanuts.”
- Teach children that they should always mention food allergies when given foods by others such as teachers or babysitters
- Teach children to only accept foods from trusted adults, and to ask a grown-up before eating food offered by other children
- If your child is old enough, teach him/her how to read food labels, and the keywords to look out for on the ingredients list
TALKING WITH YOUR DOCTOR:
Food allergies are dangerous and may be life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to have food allergies confirmed by an allergist. Be prepared when going to see a doctor. Write down any questions you might have and be aware of the questions you might be asked. Note that a food allergy is different from food intolerance. A food intolerance, also called food sensitivity, occurs when someone has difficulty digesting a certain food. Food intolerances involve the digestive system, unlike food allergies, which involve the immune system.
There is no medication to prevent food allergies. After visiting a doctor and finding out which foods your child is allergic to, it is very important to avoid these foods. It is also important to discuss the risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies any time your child is eliminating foods from their diet. Your child’s doctor or dietitian can assess the need for vitamin and mineral supplements.
Disclaimer – This post does not provide medical advice and is intended for educational purposes only. Please talk to a medical professional if you have any questions regarding food allergies.