According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated four to six percent of U.S. children and adolescents are affected by food allergies. A food allergy occurs when the body has a particular and reproducible immune response to certain foods. One of the most common food allergies among U.S. children is nuts.
Allergic reactions to nuts range in a variety of symptoms such as an upset stomach to an itchy throat or tongue. In the most severe reactions, anaphylaxis can occur. Knowing how to properly manage nut allergies is crucial to preventing allergic reactions and vital to a child’s health and safety at both home and school.
Follow these tips to prevent a potentially dangerous allergic reaction:
1. Read food labels and be aware of hidden allergens: The word nut may not always be clearly displayed on food packaging. Familiarize yourself with foods that contain nuts.
2. Be aware of cross contamination: Allergic reactions can occur when allergy safe foods are prepared with the same cookware or utensils as those used to prepare food containing nuts. Keep food preparation separate for allergy safe foods.
3. Keep an eye out for symptoms: It can be challenging for young children to express how they are feeling, so keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction especially when your child is trying a new food for the first time.
4. Keep a food allergy action plan: In the event of an allergic reaction, it is best to keep calm and follow a plan. A plan will help with determining what medication(s) to administer to your child based on his or her symptoms. Always carry your child’s EpiPen and Benadryl at all times.
Make it a team approach: Communicate your child’s allergies and food allergy action plan with his or her teachers, school employees, parents of friends and other family members. If your child is cognizant of his or her allergy, teach him or her how to verbalize the allergy when you aren’t present.