Food allergies affect twelve million people in this country. Some allergies are mild but others can be anaphylactic and life-threatening. Severe food allergy has become increasingly frequent in young children and is a life-changing experience for families.
Common Food Allergies
The foods most commonly responsible for severe reactions are the following:
- Milk (mostly in young children)
- Egg (mostly in young children)
- Tree nuts
- Sesame seed
About Peanut Allergy
Peanut allergy has become an epidemic over the past few decades. It affects 2 to 3 percent of US children, and the number has increased 20 percent since 2010. It is one of the most dangerous food allergies and one that is unlikely to be outgrown.
The most severe allergic reaction to peanuts is anaphylaxis – a life-threatening episode with symptoms that may include widespread hives, swelling in the throat, impaired breathing, blue lips and a drop in blood pressure. Fatal reactions have occurred after eating very small amounts.
Managing Peanut Allergy And Other Allergies
Having a child with a peanut allergy can be a constant source of anxiety for families. Foods that don’t contain peanut as a listed ingredient can be contaminated with trace quantities of peanut in food preparation or the manufacturing process.
Parents must read all food ingredient labels and avoid restaurants where peanuts are a hazard. In addition, they must be alert for signs of anaphylaxis in their children and always be prepared with an epinephrine injector. Many children with peanut allergy have multiple other food allergies, such as to tree nuts and sesame, which makes avoidance even more difficult.
Evaluation Of Food Allergy
Our doctors will take a detailed history and use skin and/or blood tests to arrive at a diagnosis of your child’s specific food allergy and determine its severity. Newer blood testing called component testing can sometimes offer greater clarity about the risk for severe reactions. Some children may have had a positive blood test for a food, but we will determine that they actually can tolerate the food.
Based on the testing, our doctors will give you specific dietary recommendations and provide the education and skills necessary to manage an allergic reaction should one occur. They will also periodically re-evaluate their patients and provide the necessary medical support at all times
Food Avoidance Vs Oral Immunotherapy
Some food allergies such as milk and egg allergy are usually outgrown. In contrast severe peanut and tree nut allergies tend to worsen over time and are typically life-long conditions. In the past, strict avoidance of the food was the only option.
Fortunately, anaphylactic food allergies can now also be treated with oral immunotherapy or “OIT” which is a process in which extremely small amounts of the food are given daily and increased every other week until the child can tolerate it. Our practice has an active OIT program.