How you can help your grandchild with food allergies
“Dr. Thom’s Eat Only Diet”
It is estimated that up to two million or eight percent of children in the United States are food allergic.
It has been stated in many allergy references that approximately fifty million Americans suffer from some form of allergic disease. However, before we can talk about food allergy, we must first get a basic understanding of what constitutes an allergy. The “hallmark” of allergy is the body’s production of a specific antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This ability to produce allergy antibodies is given to us through genetics. Therefore, we can blame our parents for our hay fever, allergic asthma, or food allergy.
Allergy is also a disease of “exposure,” that is, it may take two or three or more exposures before we demonstrate an allergic reaction. And, those allergic reactions may be mild or life threatening!
We now hear more about food allergies maybe because they are becoming more frequent, or they are easier to identify. It is estimated that up to two million or eight percent of children in the United States are food allergic. As for adults, it may be as high as 3% of the population.
The common factors triggering food allergies are “proteins,” not sugars or food dyes. The most common foods include cow’s milk, egg whites, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts (remember, peanuts are not nuts, but related to the legume family), peas, beans, and tree nuts (almond, pecans, walnuts, etc). In some food groups like tree nuts and seafood, a reaction to one food member may result in a reaction to the entire food group. That is usually not the case within the animal food groups. For example, a child may be allergic to cow’s milk but be able to eat beef—an egg allergy does not mean the child will react to chicken.
Symptoms of food allergy can involve any of our systems. The G.I tract may demonstrate bloating, vomiting, or diarrhea. Respiratory symptoms may include a chronic runny or stuffy nose. The skin may demonstrate hives or severe itching with secondary eczema. Food allergy does not usually cause hyperactivity or ADHD although a child who feels ill from food allergy certainly has a reason to be “fussy.”
Children with food allergy symptoms usually receive care from their pediatrician or family physician. I feel it is very important that a child, who is suspected to be suffering from an allergic condition, undergo a consultation with possible testing by an allergy specialist. Allergy skin testing may be necessary or RAST (blood testing) may be recommended. Once a diagnosis is definitively made, diet management and medication management will be simple and “guess-work” will be eliminated.
Treatment plans consist of daily antihistamines (Allegra, Zyrtec, Xyzal, and Clarinex) and a specified elimination diet. Sometimes it’s easier to follow a basic outlined diet rather than an elimination diet. I have outlined below a diet that I have tried for many years with success. This diet is based on what your child’s physician recommends for a specific age and when foods groups are to be added:
This is just a starter menu. Juices are from the below listed fruits types. Egg yolks are OK. Soymilk or rice milk or specific hypoallergenic formulas are okay.
It is important to differentiate food allergy from intolerances. Many children and adults have “lactose intolerance” which is an inability to digest lactose (milk sugar). This is not allergy. Also, infants might react from the acids found in certain fruits with a result of rashes around the mouth.
If you or your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, it’s not the end of the world. But there are important things you should remember.
And remember, a little bit of common sense goes a long way.
- The best way to treat a food allergy is avoidance.
- When eating out, ask questions about ingredients.
- Read food labels.
- Be prepared for emergencies.
- If your child has food allergies and is of school age, he/she must be warned about not sharing a friend’s food/treat, etc.
For further information on food allergies, call The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) @ 1-800-929-4040 or visit the website at www.foodallergy.org
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"How you can help your grandchild with food allergies
“Dr. Thom’s Eat Only Diet”"
Thom F. Rosenberg, M.D., a graduate of The Chicago Medical. Pediatric internship and residency @ The Childrens' Hospital of Pittsburgh. Allergy & Immunology Fellowship @ The University of Pittsburgh Hospitals and The Childrens' Hospital of Pittsburgh...