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Health blog

Food Allergies in Children

About three million children in the United States suffer from food allergies. According to the CDC, the prevalence of childhood food allergies increased by 18% in the past ten years. Between 6% to 8% of children under age four have documented food allergies.

Just eight foods account for 90% of childhood food allergies: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts (i.e. almonds, walnuts) Less commonly, fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, strawberries, and tomatoes may cause mild allergic reactions, while seeds such as sesame seeds may cause more serious reactions.

Symptoms of a food allergy reaction can be sudden and severe and may include one or more of the following:

• Hives, eczema, rash
• tingling and/or swelling in the tongue and throat
• difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing
• abdominal cramps; may involve vomiting or diarrhea
• loss of consciousness
• dizziness

Fortunately, most children outgrow allergies to soy, milk, wheat, and eggs, sometimes in just a few months. Allergies to fish and shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts, are likely to persist into adulthood.

Every child with food allergies needs an action plan. See a sample plan at: www.foodallergy.org/downloads/FAAP.pdf. It includes a list of symptoms, tells when to give medications, lists emergency contacts, and contains directions for epinephrine injections. The plan, signed by the child’s physician, should be displayed at home, and kept on file with daycare providers and schools. Family members and older children should learn how to use epinephrine autoinjectors.

For my complete article on this topic written for nurses, go to the Nursing Spectrum/ Nurse Week site at: http://ce.nurse.com/CE555/Food-Allergies-More-Common-Than-Ever-Among-Children/

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