The issue of food allergies is gaining recognition throughout the United States these days as more and more people—children especially—are developing them. Some eleven million people throughout the country are affected by food allergies including nearly six percent of children three and under. Though you are unaffected by allergies, your child may not be.
There are many theories about what exactly causes allergies and genetics are only a single factor. Many children in families without a history of problems develop food allergies so it is important to be aware of the signs and recognize when you may need to take your child to see a doctor or allergist.
One of the most important components of diagnosing an illness in your child is your knowledge of the child. As a parent, you are one of the people who spend the most time with him or her and know the most about them. Your observations of your child’s physical responses and behaviors around food are key to any awareness of a developing problem. With that said, however, there are some fairly obvious signs to look for in the case of food allergies:
• Difficulty swallowing and breathing
• Abdominal Pain
These reactions can occur within minutes of exposure to the food or within an hour of eating. The window is determined by the timing and location of the exposure as well as by the digestive process itself. Pay attention to your child’s behavior around food and note any patterns of discomfort or signs and symptoms such as mentioned above.
There are many health problems, both severe and simple, that can cause the symptoms of a food allergy. Because of the way that allergic reactions are triggered by the immune system, your child’s early exposures to problematic foods may be easy to confuse with other issues. It may take you time to identify a potential problem with food allergies. If you notice a severe reaction, you will want to take the child to a medical professional immediately to get them checked out, otherwise, you may find yourself slowly becoming suspicious of a food allergy. If this happens, talk to your child’s doctor about your observations and concerns. He or she can help you target the cause of the problem more effectively than you can do on your own.
Do make sure that you refrain from further exposure to the source of the problem, however, until you know one way or the other. If your child does have a food allergy, then repeated exposure to the allergen will only cause their reactions to become more severe. The best thing you can do to protect your child from food allergies is to know your child and be aware of their responses to and behavior around food. Armed with this knowledge, a doctor and allergist can help you and your family figure out the rest.
Discovering that your child has developed food allergies of any kind can be scary. Though the severity of these allergies can vary greatly from case to case, it is terrifying to think that one moment of laxity could cause a painful and dangerous immune response. Despite your newfound awareness of your child’s apparent fragility, when it comes to food allergies, the world is safer than it has ever been before.
Now that allergies of all kinds are becoming more common, there are real protections in place in society for children with food allergies. This means that you and your family can live normally with your child’s food allergies as long as you are vigilant about activating those protections.
You and your family will always be your child’s first line of defense when it comes to food allergies. It is relatively simple to adjust to creating a safe environment for your child at home. No matter what the food allergy is, you can find simple ways to live without it in the home:
• Enlist the help of others who have dealt with allergies rather than try and reinvent the wheel.
• Buy an allergy cookbook.
• Research substitutions.
• Check for mentions of the forbidden food on nutrition labels.
• Be aware of the allergen’s use throughout the household and find ways to remove or replace it.
The real challenge begins when you leave the home. It would be unrealistic to expect your child never to encounter their particular allergens outside the home or away from your protection. If you are not going to be around to stand between your child and food allergens, then you need to enlist two new sources of aid.
Your child is his or her own best defense against allergies--so make sure that he or she knows the danger that they face. Educate your child about the source of their allergic reaction, how to avoid it, and how to treat it. You will need to practice this information regularly at home so that if a situation arises, both you and the child will feel comfortable knowing that he or she can handle it.
Do not let the matter rest there, however. You child might be unintentionally exposed or otherwise prevented from acting to protect themselves. Children are in the process of developing the ability to reason soundly for themselves and you need to know that the adults around your child can step in to fill your role and protect them when you can’t.
Inform the school and your child’s teachers about the allergies and the proper way to handle a reaction. Take the time to go over this information with them regularly and leave doses of your child’s medication with them for emergencies. You will need to repeat this process for every adult who cares for your child. Make sure that the people who spend time with your child are equipped to protect him or her the way that you are.