Kids and Food Allergies

Kids and food allergies are not a nice mix – ask any parent with an affected child.

A recent review by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In this, they note that incidences of food allergy in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, and  suggest that the focus should shift from treatment to prevention.

So, is it possible to prevent your child from developing a food allergy?

Previous guidelines suggested that you should avoid giving your child any of the known potential allergenic foods before the age of 36 months, particularly if they are in a “high-risk” group (if, for example, another member of the family suffers from allergies).

This latest study has concluded that giving peanuts to an at-risk child earlier (between 4 and 11 months) could reduce the food allergy risk by up to 80%.

However, while this is potentially great news for affected parents and kids, you must always take medical advice before any trials on your child. No matter how high the potential reduction in risk, you do not want to find out the hard way that your child is the exception!

Food Allergy Legislation

Sufferers of food allergies in Europe will find their shopping experience a little bit easier following a change in regulations last year.

On December 13 2014, a new European Commission directive comes into force allowing consumers to have clearer knowledge of the food they are thinking of eating.

The new regulations make it mandatory for the information to be shown clearly and in a prescribed format, even down to stating the minimum font size that must be used.

Information on allergens must also be made easily available in the case of unpackaged foods and at takeaways.

The legislation will cover producers and manufacturers at all stages of food production.

Coping With Food Allergy

So you have discovered that you or a member of your family is allergic to a particular foodstuff and you need to change your food purchasing, preparation and cooking routines.

First thing to do is not to panic – things are probably not as bad as you think.

Next, start to list/remove all the products you already have that could cause a reaction. Check kitchen cupboards, refrigerator, freezer, secret sweet-hiding drawers, anywhere that the allergen could possibly be lurking.

Don’t throw perfectly good food away unnecessarily though – friends, family, neighbours, even local charities will most likely be happy to take it off your hands. Having this conversation with friends and family will also highlight the problem and make them aware of what can/can’t be eaten when they next invite you round for a meal.

Now you should begin learning about alternatives to the “baddie” – mouseover “Types Of Food Allergy” at the top of this page and go to the relevant page for more details. You will also find details of how the food could “hide” under a different name. Until you get used to the names, it’s a good idea to make a list of these and carry it with you when you go shopping.

All that’s left is for you to change routines/purchasing habits to ensure none of the offending foodstuffs sneaks back in to your home.  Get into the habit of reading the ingredients on all purchases, or asking the vendor if you are buying unwrapped food.

One final point to note is that it is not possible to “cook the allergy away”. Most of us are brought up to know that if we suspect bacteria is present, say, in water, then boiling the water first will remove it and make the water safe. With food allergies, cooking can often make the problem worse.

Top Food Allergies

Maybe “top food allergies” is the wrong way to describe this post as it makes it sound like a good thing – this is one occasion when you don’t want to aim for the top.

However, it can be interesting, particularly to non-sufferers, to see what food type is most likely to cause an allergic reaction. If you are going to be preparing food for a group of people (for example, friends of your child), you can avoid the obvious dangers by not using particular types of food or by labelling the resulting dishes.

It is generally agreed that the top eight food allergens cause around 80-90% of all food allergy reactions. These are:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

Note that these are listed in alphabetical order, not in order of severity or how common they are.