Important Tips for Parents to Expose their Children to Common Allergens
Food allergies, especially in little ones that are not yet verbalizing or do not have the words to describe their symptoms, is one of the scariest things that I treat. Food reactions have also become very confusing due to the increasing amount of processed and ultra-processed food in the American diet. For this reason, I wrote, “What’s Eating Our Kids? A Parent’s Guide to Food Allergy, Intolerance, and Toxicity.”
Common foods that cause allergic reactions
- tree nuts
Allergic reactions and symptoms
Allergies can be immediate, usually causing severe symptoms within minutes to hours after exposure, or delayed, in which symptoms can take days to weeks to manifest.
Typical symptoms of an immediate allergy are:
- shortness of breath
- chest tightness
- swelling of the throat or tongue
These can usually be reversed with an epinephrine auto-injector (or epipen), and less severe symptoms can be decreased with the use of an antihistamine.
Delayed allergic reactions include
- eczema and other rashes
- difficulty swallowing food
- food catching in the throat
- difficulties with absorption
In this case, identification and avoidance of the specific trigger food is the most appropriate treatment.
Introducing common allergen foods
Currently, Allergist-Immunologists believe that encouraging safe, early exposure leads to increased tolerance and a lower risk of developing food allergies.
Food can be introduced when the child is developmentally able to eat the offered meal—typically some time between four and six months of age. For example, many cultures introduce peanuts with a puffed product that melts in the mouth known as La Bamba.
My advice is to introduce one food allergen at a time and once introduced, continue regular, low-level exposure. The more consistent the better, so daily is better than once per week. After a few weeks of consistent and successful exposure, another food can be introduced.
While this early exposure will greatly reduce the likelihood of allergies, it cannot eliminate food allergies altogether. Children with eczema, especially severe eczema, are at greatest risk to develop food allergies. Children with eczema should introduce foods under their Allergist-Immunologist’s supervision.
While there is no cure for food allergies, they can be managed. Avoidance has been the standard of care among Allergist-Immunologists, but within the last decade Food Oral Immunotherapy (FOIT) has entered mainstream medicine.
FOIT involves feeding the child, starting below the known allergic threshold, and increasing slowly and regularly. Once started, to maintain tolerance of the trigger food, FOIT cannot be stopped to maintain tolerance. FOIT should be performed under the supervision of a board-certified Allergist-Immunologist. All patients should have a plan of action should they accidentally ingest a food in a quantity that causes a reaction and carry medicine, such as an epinephrine auto-injector (epipen), for emergencies.
More information on food allergies can be found in my latest book – “What’s Eating Your Kids? A Parent’s Guide to Food Allergy, Intolerance, and Toxicity.”
Visit relieveaz.com to purchase your copy today.