Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size

Managing a Severe Food Allergy

By Melissa Bienvenu
WebMD Feature

Managing a child's food allergy sounds simple: Just avoid the trigger food. As any parent knows, that can be a challenge. Knowing how to prevent and handle a severe reaction can help you both feel more confident.

Common Food Allergies in Children

An allergic reaction happens when the body's immune system thinks something in a food (usually a protein) is harmful. Children are most likely to be allergic to peanuts and cow's milk. But they can also be allergic to:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are usually the most severe and last a lifetime. Your child may outgrow other food allergies.

Severe Food Allergy Symptoms

Your child is likely to have a reaction within a few minutes to an hour after eating a problem food. Symptom of a mild allergy include:

Symptoms of a severe allergy can include those listed above, as well as:

The most dangerous reaction, anaphylaxis, is a medical emergency. When it happens, the throat swells, preventing breathing or swallowing. The heart rate rises as blood pressure drops. If not treated, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

Be Ready for a Severe Reaction

Your child's doctor can create a food allergy and anaphylaxis emergency care plan. This helps everyone in your child's life know how to spot a reaction and what to do.

The doctor will likely prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector. Learn how to use it, and keep two doses with your child at all times. Use the injector at the first sign of a reaction. If you suspect anaphylaxis, call 911.

Get your child a medical ID bracelet or necklace to wear.

Avoid Hidden Threats

The best way to prevent a reaction is to avoid problem foods. But allergy triggers can hide in packaged foods. To be safe:

Read the label. Even trace amounts can do harm. Reading food labels is one of the “most important thing you can do to keep your child safe," says Lynda Mitchell, vice president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and founder of its Kids With Food Allergies division.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
mature woman holding fan in face
Symptoms and treatments.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.