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Dealing with Food Allergies

Posted on May 14, 2018

Rachel Dawkins, M.D.

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, talks about food allergies in kids.

What are common foods kids are allergic to?

Any food can cause an allergic reaction but 90 percent of food allergies in kids are caused by just six common foods/food groups: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (like cashews, pistachios and almonds), soy and wheat. Adults are commonly allergic to four foods: peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

Some kids will outgrow food allergies especially to milk and egg. Conversely, some children, especially those with severe food allergy or peanut allergy, will have to avoid the allergen for their entire lives.

What are the signs of severe food allergy?

Anaphylaxis is the most serious allergic reaction. It usually happens quickly and can be deadly. Signs to look for include lips and/or tongue swelling, throat tightness, shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal cramps, itching, dizziness and/or the feeling of impending doom.

Anaphylaxis is the body’s immune system “overreacting” to something (an allergen) that should’ve been harmless.

What is the treatment?

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. The main medication used to treat anaphylaxis is epinephrine (i.e. adrenaline). It is given via injection. There are a couple of auto-injectors that parents or children can carry in case of allergic reaction. One is called the Epi Pen and one is called Auvi-Q. It’s important that if your child is at risk for anaphylaxis that the epinephrine injector be with them at all times—at school, daycare or wherever the child may be. Don’t leave it at home because you won’t have it during an emergency situation.

If you or your child experience anaphylaxis and need to use epinephrine, make sure to call 911 and seek emergency medical attention.

Is there a current EpiPen shortage?

Recently, the Federal and Drug Administration warned of shortages of EpiPens in some areas across the United States. I have not heard about local pharmacies having short supplies of the medication.

The best bet is to check with your pharmacy if you are due for a refill of the medication and if it is not available, talk to your pediatrician about alternatives such as Auvi-Q or getting a vial of epinephrine.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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