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    The Truth About Children and Food Allergies

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    Kids with food allergies can stay safe at school by bringing lunch from home.

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    Kids with food allergies can stay safe at school by bringing lunch from home.

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    When you pack your child’s lunch, you’ll know what's in it. But kids often share food. Your child may not know what's in the cookie or sandwich her friend offers her a bite of. Make sure she doesn’t share lunches and snacks.

     

    Crafts or science projects that use food can also expose kids to allergens. Let the school staff know if your child has a food allergy.

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    If your child has a peanut allergy, she should avoid tree nuts, too.

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    If your child has a peanut allergy, she should avoid tree nuts, too.

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    Peanuts are related to peas and beans. Because of that, some kids with peanut allergies can still eat tree nuts like walnuts and almonds. But peanut proteins are similar to tree nuts. That means kids who are allergic to peanuts are more likely to be allergic to tree nuts than other people. Talk to your doctor about what else to avoid.

    Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are the same thing.

    Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are the same thing.

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    Parents often confuse lactose intolerance -- the inability to digest the sugar in milk and other dairy products -- with a milk allergy. The symptoms can seem similar. Both can cause vomiting and stomachache within about 30 minutes. Your pediatrician can help you figure out which one your child has.

    Kids can outgrow some food allergies.

    Kids can outgrow some food allergies.

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    Most children outgrow milk, soy, egg, and wheat allergies by the end of their teen years. Many kids outgrow them by the time they're 5 years old. On the other hand, kids with peanut, tree nut, or seafood allergies usually have them for life. Your pediatrician or allergist can do tests to see if your child's allergy has gone away.

    As long as your child doesn't eat peanuts, he's OK.
     

    As long as your child doesn't eat peanuts, he's OK.  

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    It depends on how sensitive he is to peanuts. Skipping PB&J sandwiches may be enough for some kids. Others can have a reaction even if they:

    • Touch peanuts

    • Eat foods that came in contact with equipment that touched peanuts

    • Breathe air near people who are eating peanuts

    Ask your child's doctor what's safe for him.

    You should wait until kids are 3 years old to feed them peanuts or eggs.

    You should wait until kids are 3 years old to feed them peanuts or eggs.

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    Doctors once believed that you should wait several years before feeding kids foods like peanuts and seafood. The idea was that the wait would prevent them from getting food allergies. Now we know the delay makes no difference. Based on your family history of food allergies, your doctor can help you decide when to try feeding your child certain foods.

    Allergy shots can cure food allergies.

    Allergy shots can cure food allergies.

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    Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, may help if she's allergic to things you inhale, like pollen or mold. But they don't really work for food allergies. Some medications can treat minor and major symptoms, but there's no cure for food allergies -- or any allergies. Your child's doctor can help manage her allergy symptoms and come up with a plan to treat severe reactions.

    Food additives often cause allergic reactions.

    Food additives often cause allergic reactions.

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    Foods, not things added to them, are most likely to be the problem. Additives like dyes, sweeteners, or preservatives can trigger reactions. But only a handful have been shown to cause reactions in a small number of people. 

    Your child eats a food and gets hives. Is it OK to use over-the-counter medication?

    Your child eats a food and gets hives. Is it OK to use over-the-counter medication?

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    For a minor reaction to food, like a rash, most children can take a liquid antihistamine like diphenhydramine. This over-the-counter product can relieve hives and itching. 

     

    But if she has other symptoms like wheezing, swelling, or trouble breathing, talk to your doctor about other important measures. An epinephrine auto-injector can save her life if she has a type of severe reaction called anaphylaxis.

    If your child has a swollen tongue and trouble breathing after eating, you should:

    If your child has a swollen tongue and trouble breathing after eating, you should:

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    Shortness of breath, swelling, and itching can be early symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction, which can become life-threatening within minutes. 

     

    If you have epinephrine, inject it first and then call 911. If you don’t have epinephrine, call 911 immediately. The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to help your child avoid his food triggers.

    How quickly do most children have a severe allergic reaction to a food?

    How quickly do most children have a severe allergic reaction to a food?

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    Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction to food -- rash, dizziness, swelling, trouble breathing -- usually show up within an hour. Or it could be anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. Some people have a second reaction hours later. That's why, even if your child seems to recover from a severe reaction, she should still go to the hospital so they can observe her for 4 to 6 hours.

    Food allergies that cause anaphylaxis are on the rise.

    Food allergies that cause anaphylaxis are on the rise.

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    If your child has had an anaphylactic reaction, have an emergency plan in place. Read labels carefully for food ingredients. If his doctor has prescribed epinephrine, keep it handy wherever he spends time. Teach family, friends, caregivers, and school staff what to do in an emergency.

    Which of these foods can cause a severe allergic reaction?

    Which of these foods can cause a severe allergic reaction?

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    Food allergies are the most common cause of anaphylaxis. This severe allergic reaction makes it hard to breathe and can be life-threatening. The foods most likely to do it are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Children who have asthma or have had an anaphylactic reaction before are more at risk than others.

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    Great job! You have a good grasp of how to manage your child's food allergy.

    Not bad, but knowing more about your child's food allergy can help you manage it better. Learn all you can.

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