Food allergies in children jumped 18-percent from 1997 to 2007. One out of every 25 children, or 5.9 million, has a food allergy according to a study published last year in "Pediatrics" the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of those children, nearly 40-percent have a history of severe reactions.
The eight foods that make up 90% of all food allergies include: peanut, tree nut, milk or dairy, egg, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.
The most severe reaction to food allergies is anaphylaxis, a reaction causing swelling throughout the body including the airways making it hard to breathe and a sudden and dramatic loss of blood pressure. Anaphylaxis is always a medical emergency and can be fatal if untreated.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis are:
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Changes in consciousness (including confusion, light-headedness, or stupor)
- Rapid swelling throughout the body
- Blue skin
- Severe abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea
Be especially alert to the possibility of anaphylaxis in a child with nut or shellfish allergies, or in any patient who has ever experienced a systemic (whole-body) allergic reaction.
Get help. Call 911 (or your local emergency services number) or have someone drive the child to the hospital immediately and call ahead to let the hospital know you're coming. Even with proper administration of medication, many patients with anaphylaxis need additional specialized support.
Administer adrenalin (epinephrine) as soon as possible. Patients whose doctors have identified them as likely to experience anaphylactic shock will have been prescribed some form of rescue medication and told when to use it. Epi-Pen is one of the most common brands. Patients should keep this on their person at all times, and family members and school medical personnel should learn how to administer this medication in the event that the patient has lost consciousness.
Be prepared to administer CPR. Because cardiac arrest is a possibility with anaphylactic shock, one of the best investments you can make in your family's safety is for every member of your family who is old enough to take CPR training, which is available through the American Red Cross (among other organizations). If your loved one has lost consciousness, check their pulse and breathing periodically and administer CPR as appropriate until emergency services arrive.
We highly recommend having a child with a severe food allergy wear a bracelet or dog tag identifying what food allergy the child is allergic too. We highly recommend AllerMates products.