February 27, 2023
Tips For Parents With Kids Newly Diagnosed With A Food Allergy
If you are reading this, it is likely that you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with a food allergy. You've looked up food allergies online and have realized that there's a whole lot to learn. The good news is that we're here to help!
When your child is newly diagnosed with a food allergy, it can become a daily obsession. There are constantly thoughts running through your head while you’re trying to figure out what may have caused this and what you can do to fix it. The first thing to remember is that you are a wonderful parent. You did not cause your child's food allergies. Food allergies are something we have to work with and help our children manage. But there is an entire community of parents who have been where you are now and can offer support along the way.
What are food allergies?
Food allergies result when the body’s immune system overreacts to a particular food, causing reactions that may range from mild discomfort to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
What are the top 9 food allergies?
- Tree Nuts
What are the common symptoms of food allergies?
Reactions to food allergies can include a wide variety of symptoms, which can appear anywhere from minutes to two hours after exposure. It’s important to be aware and knowledgeable about these symptoms to know when to administer epinephrine.
Mid symptoms like an itchy mouth or mild nausea can occur with food allergies, but more severe symptoms can occur as well.
Severe symptoms include (anaphylaxis):
- Throat swelling/closing
- Widespread hives
- Repetitive cough, wheeze, or difficulty breathing
- Repetitive vomiting
- A drop in blood pressure that may cause passing out or loss of consciousness.
- Any reaction that involves mild symptoms from more than one body system (for instance hives and a single episode of vomiting)
If your child is experiencing any of these, do not hesitate to use your epinephrine and seek medical attention immediately.
Important Tips for New Food Allergy Parents:
- Always carry two epinephrine auto injectors. These auto injectors come in packs of two so that if you use one pen, and it is not effective within 5-10 minutes, you can give the second pen. Remember if you use the auto injector, you should call 911 and seek medical attention ASAP.
- Strictly avoid your child’s allergens. That means avoiding your child’s allergens as ingredients in food, and in most cases, avoiding products that “may contain” your child’s allergens. Talk with chefs or managers when you visit restaurants and make sure they know that your child has a food allergy.
- Always check the labels of foods you buy. Manufacturers may change their recipes at any time, even for products that were safe in the past. It’s especially important to watch out for allergens when dealing with smaller versions—like "mini" food packages or single-serve boxes.
Although manufacturers are required to disclose if a top 9 allergen is an ingredient in the food, they do not have to tell consumers if their products were manufactured on equipment that also processes your child's allergen. When residual proteins from an allergen—such as peanuts or eggs—are processed on manufacturing equipment, it can lead to cross-contact in another product made on the same machinery. While this type of labeling is not required, many larger companies do include it on their labels. For some children with food allergies, the small amount of residual protein in a treatment is enough to cause an allergic reaction. Your allergist should be able to tell you if this applies in your child's case.
- Find a support system. This is incredibly important during times when there can be so much anxiety and uncertainty—remember, you’re not alone! Being part of a support group can help people feel less isolated and misunderstood by their families, friends, or colleagues. We offer an online Aspire Facebook support group (link to be provided).
- If your child has an accidental reaction, don’t blame yourself. Dealing with a food allergy means that you must be extremely vigilant—an exhausting responsibility for any parent. We know you can do it, but if you make a mistake, be sure to treat yourself with the same kindness that you would offer another person.
- Set boundaries. You might encounter people who don’t understand the seriousness of your allergies. Set clear boundaries with friends and family, especially around celebrations or activities that revolve around food. We have multiple articles on how to deal with food allergies during the holidays including Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.
- Teach your child early on what to look out for. It's important for your child to know the symptoms of an allergic reaction and what actions they should take in case one occurs. Teach them not to accept food from others without first checking, "Is it safe?" And make sure that wherever they go—the classroom, a sleepover, or camp—they carry their epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with them!
- Find the right allergist for you. This is a long journey, so you want to make sure that your child's allergist has the best interests of both you and your child in mind. An allergy action plan can help you recognize and treat an allergic reaction. This plan should be shared with family, friends, teachers, and other important people in your child's life.
- There is HOPE. There are several treatments available now for food allergies that may reduce your child’s risk around their allergen and even allow them to consume the food safely. You can read below for the food allergy treatments we offer at Aspire.
Resources you may find helpful:
These resources are always available, and it's a good idea to check on them regularly. The food allergy world can change quickly—new developments have the ability to affect your child's well-being.
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life and health of individuals with food allergies.
Through FARE, you can find the latest developments in food allergy research and advocacy. The organization also maintains a mailing list that allows people with allergies to stay up-to-date on new treatments and learn about legislative efforts aimed at helping those affected by food allergies.
FAACT (Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Connection Team) is a nonprofit organization that educates the general public about food allergies and their dangers. Food allergies are often seen as a minor concern by those who do not suffer from them, but for people with life-threatening conditions such as anaphylaxis—the body's potentially fatal reaction to foreign substances—they can be devastating.
FAACT understands these challenges and has created guides to help people with food allergies manage the behavioral impacts of their condition, as well as recognize anaphylaxis and take steps to minimize it.
One of a parent's greatest fears is watching their child suffer from an allergic reaction. But it’s important to be able to spot the signs that something more serious than your usual allergy symptoms may be happening—and act quickly.
When can my child be tested for food allergies?
At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we can treat and test for the top nine common food allergies in children as young as four months old. Find a clinic near you.
How are food allergies tested?
There are multiple ways to perform food allergy testing. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, our primary way of testing is with a skin test.
Skin Test: A skin test involves a light prick into the skin with a drop of the liquid food allergen. This process causes minimal discomfort.. After about 20 minutes, a provider will measure the results on the skin, which typically resemble a small, raised, red bump.
Blood test: While skin tests are generally the first step in testing. A provider may suggest blood testing if the skin test results are inconclusive. Blood testing for food allergies detects and quantifies the presence of allergen-specific antibodies in the blood. Typically, results are available in 1-2 weeks.
Oral food challenge: If both the skin and blood tests are inconclusive or uncertain, then your provider may suggest an oral food challenge. During this procedure, the patient will consume increasing amounts of food over a period of time to see if an allergic reaction occurs. Oral food challenges are known as the "gold standard" for diagnosing food allergies.
How can food allergies be treated?
Epinephrine can halt a severe allergic reaction, but it's not the cure for allergies.
Other treatment options for food allergies are:
Oral Immunotherapy (OIT): This treatment involves the exposure and consumption of allergenic foods by the patient in a clinic setting. OIT treatment is overseen by our allergists, so in the event of a reaction, there is a trained professional ready to handle it. Within six months of treatment, approximately 80% of our patients who complete OIT are able to eat foods that previously threatened their health. OIT gradually increases the amount of allergen consumed over a longer period of time.This process can look very different for patients due to many factors.
Allergy Drops (Sublingual Immunotherapy): With allergy drops, several drops of highly controlled doses of a food allergen are placed under the tongue each day. This helps train the immune system to not overreact to the substance. Allergy drops can be taken anywhere, but when it comes to a food allergen, it’s especially important to keep watch over your child for any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis. It’s important to note that because these are not taken in the office, the concentration of the allergen is much lower than a regular OIT dose. This means that this process does take longer than OIT, and the goal of food allergy drops– protection from accidental ingestion of an allergen– is different from OIT.
Palforzia: Palforzia is a new FDA-approved peanut products to help patients' tolerance reach a level at which they would be free of symptoms from accidental ingestion of peanuts. It is classified as oral immunotherapy, with the allergen being introduced gradually in controlled doses and gradually increasing over time.
Food allergies can be incredibly tough to deal with, but not impossible. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone and remember that Aspire Allergy & Sinus can provide support and encouragement. If you’re looking to move on to the next step in your journey and speak with one of our allergy specialists, book your appointment today!