Healthy Living: Food Allergies

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 90 percent of food allergies stem from some of the items we eat most: From milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy to, of course, tree nuts and peanuts. Dr. Majorie Slankard of Columbia Medical Center and Columbia Doctors Eastside has definitely seen an uptick among kids.

“The incidence of peanut allergy actually doubled from 1997 to 2002. The incidence now is listed up to possibly 1.8 percent of all children. That’s a lot of kids,” Slankard said.

About three million children nationwide have food allergies overall at latest count. With kids eating most of their snacks and meals during the school day, Slankard says its important families have a plan beginning with recognizing symptoms.

Slankard said, “Some children will feel, they will get lip swelling, break out in hives, have what’s called eczema or atopic dermatitis. But others, there nose will just get more runny or congested, or wheeze have asthma without any reaction on the skin. Also there’s all kinds of intestinal reactions that occur.”

Most schools already have policies in place to protect students from reactions, so parents should make sure everyone is on the same page. Emergency plans often include leaving Benedryl and other medications, usually with the school nurse, and making sure adrenaline injections are available in the form of an Epipen, Twinject or other generic version in case of a severe reaction. And kids and responsible adults should know how to use it.

“It is injected by a swinging motion into the upper, outer thigh. The goal is to inject this into a muscular area. So you swing and inject it into the upper outer part of the thigh then you hold it in place for at least 10 seconds. Within five minutes there may start to be relief of symptoms or the person may start to feel a little hyper or jittery. If they feel that then you know they got their medications,” Slankard said.

Undiagnosed problems should always be brought to the attention of an allergist or pediatrician.