The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network shines extra light on the gravity of food allergies come May. It’s currently estimated that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. The symptoms of an allergic response range from mild to severe, and can cause anaphylaxis, a serious and impetuous reaction that can cause death.

Food allergy awareness has deservedly increased in recent years as the CDC reports food allergy among children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011. More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions, with milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and crustacean shellfish being the biggest contributors for serious food allergy reactions in the United States.  

Food allergies’ increasing prevalence is raising concern among parents. While parents may attempt self-diagnosis on their children, it’s strongly recommended not to. Self-diagnosis potentially instigates unnecessary dietary constraints and inadequate nutrition. All suspected food allergies should be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by qualified medical professionals.

The first step in diagnosing a food allergy is a thorough examination of medical history. A physical exam is performed and the professional will ask questions to determine a food allergy’s presence and its culprit. Tests, like a skin prick test or blood test, are also performed.

If it is revealed your child has a food allergy, it’s wise to follow an effective food allergy treatment plan. The only way to currently prevent allergic reactions is to eschew trigger food – but even with assiduous avoidance, the food can still be accidentally or unknowingly consumed.

Along with avoiding the problem foods, have your child wear emergency medical identification and carry medication wherever you go – and make sure the school is properly equipped. If a reaction does occur, have the child take the medication and use an EpiPen immediately upon the first sign of a reaction. Symptoms include hives, eczema, redness, itchy mouth, stomach pain, odd taste, and nasal congestion. The more severe symptoms include swelling, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, turning blue, chest pain, loss of consciousness, and a weak pulse.

These symptoms may be hard to notice among children and most children have a unique way of describing what they experience. Young children will often put their hands in their mouths or pull and scratch their tongues in response to a reaction. Additional warning signs are if they describe their tongue as hot, their food as spicy, or their mouth as funny.

After giving medication or using an EpiPen at the first sign of a reaction, immediately get them to an emergency room.

Every three minutes a food allergy reaction prompts an emergency room visit and about 40% of children with food allergies have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis. Food allergies are serious matters and can be difficult to manage as a parent with an afflicted child. It requires attentive managing and communicating, not only with the child, but their school and peers. A food allergy means a lifestyle change that requires constant attention.