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    Managing a Severe Food Allergy

    Avoid Hidden Threats continued...

    By law, labels must plainly state if a product contains a common allergy trigger. Sometimes, the food is listed in parentheses after the ingredient -- for example, "whey (milk)." Other times, you can find it in a separate statement. For example: "Contains: wheat, milk, soy."

    Avoid cross contact. Unsafe foods or food particles may touch a safe food in kitchens or processing plants. Dust from peanuts can drift onto candy bars without nuts if a candy maker isn’t careful. Food labels don't have to state if the item was processed near or with the same equipment as a common allergen.

    "At home, the classic example of cross–contact is using the peanut butter knife in the jelly jar," Mitchell says. Countertops and hands also spread allergens. Keep the kitchen clean, and wash hands with soap and water -- not hand-sanitizer.

    Cross-contact can happen at school, concession stands, summer camps, or in restaurants. It's especially common in restaurants that serve seafood or nuts, says Thomas Prescott Atkinson, MD, PhD. Most allergic reactions happen away from home.

    Work with your child's school or summer camp to make sure he is not exposed to unsafe foods. When eating out, ask to talk to the restaurant manager about its cooking and cleaning methods. Work with your child's school or summer camp to keep him safe. When eating out, ask about the restaurant's cooking and cleaning methods. "Talk to the manager, not the waiter," Mitchell suggests.

    Teach your child to ask questions, too. As he gets older, he can take charge of his own safety.

    Help Your Child Eat Healthy

    Cutting out problem foods can create other problems, like poor nutrition. Talk to your child's allergy doctor before taking healthy foods out of her diet. For example, milk, the most common childhood food allergen, helps your child grow. "An allergist can give you a list of alternative foods such as soy milk, orange juice with calcium, or vitamin D supplements," Atkinson says.

    The doctor or a nutritionist can help you find the best ways to get her the nutrients she needs. Some kids may need special vitamins or supplements.

    A severe food allergy affects the whole family. But it doesn't have to make anyone's life less full and active. "Your carefree, drive-through lifestyle will have to change," Mitchell says, "but once you learn to manage it, life starts to normalize again."

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    Reviewed on May 30, 2014

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