If you or your children have food allergies, you know how important it is to watch what you eat. And with Easter right around the corner, those baskets of treats sure can be tempting. Personally, I’m huge fan of jelly beans! But food allergies mean you have to be extra careful.
Nuts, eggs, wheat and soy: Oh boy!
As many as 12 million Americans have food allergies, including 3 million children. Any food can cause an allergy, but 8 foods cause 90 percent of allergic reactions. They are cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, nuts (like walnuts, pecans, cashews or almonds), fish and shellfish.
Most symptoms appear within minutes of eating the food, but they also can show up 2 to 4 hours later. Symptoms vary from mild to severe. Watch for things like:
- Hives, an itchy rash or swelling of the skin.
- Itching, tingling or swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth.
- Difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing or tightness in the throat.
- Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
- Light-headedness or dizziness.
- Loss of consciousness.
Follow these tips to prevent an allergic reaction:
- Know your food allergies. Be aware of exactly what food allergies you may have and what types of food might trigger them. There are tests available to check if an allergy exists.
- Tell others. Wherever you are, tell people who are preparing meals and snacks about your food allergies.
- Read labels. Carefully check the ingredients on food labels to make sure they don’t contain anything that may trigger a food allergy. Be sure to read both the major and minor ingredients.
- Avoid foods. The only real treatment for food allergies is avoidance. If you aren’t sure if you’re allergic to a certain food, or just what might be in Aunt Shirley’s casserole, don’t eat it.
- Ask your doctor about epinephrine. Many people carry an EpiPen® in case of a severe reaction. If your doctor prescribes it, be sure to keep one at home, school or work. Know how to use it in case of emergency.
It’s OK to enjoy your favorite treats. These tips will help you have a safe holiday without worrying about your food allergies. If you have questions about food allergies, talk with your pediatrician.
Dr. Fang is a pediatrician at River Glen Pediatrics, Glendale, Wis. Are you looking for a pediatrician? Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has 17 primary care pediatric clinic sites throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Visit childrensmedicalgroup.org to find a pediatrician near you.