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Food allergies are an abnormal reaction to food. An allergic reaction usually occurs within minutes or up to 2 hours after you eat a food item. About 1 in 20 children are allergic to at least one food.
There is good news, except for peanuts and tree nuts, most children tend to outgrow their food allergies.
Major Food Allergens
- Tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pecans)
- Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp)
- Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
Signs of an allergic reaction
- Sneezing, runny nose, coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing
- Itchy skin or eyes
- Nausea, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, and cramps
- Flushed skin or rash
Please note: A small percentage of people have severe reactions that can threaten their lives.
How to help manage a food allergy
- Get help: Your health care provider is an expert that can help.
- Avoid offering problem foods: Be aware that mixed foods may contain some problem ingredients.
- Find out about food substitutes: Your child may be missing out on key nutrients, so offer other foods with the same nutrient benefits.
- Read the ingredient list on food labels: See if a packaged food has the problem ingredient. (Ingredients may change so be sure to read the label every time).
- Tell all caregivers: Bring a note from your health care provider to the daycare center. Be sure to tell babysitters, grandparents, other relatives, and friends.
- Order carefully for your child: When you eat out, ask about the ingredients.
- Take food from home: If you’re not sure about food away from home, pack food for you child. Let them help for fun!
- Role-play with your child: Practice what to do when a problem food is offered.
How to read a label for food allergies
How are allergens listed on the food label?
- In the ingredient list, using the common name
- Using the word ‘contains’ followed by the allergen. (Contains: Nuts)
- In the ingredient list in parentheses, for example, “albumin (egg)”
Avoid foods that contain milk or any of these ingredients:
- Butter, Buttermilk, Casein, Tagatose, Cheese, Lactose, Cream, Lactulose, Ghee, Diacetyl, Yogurt, Half-and-half, Sour Cream, Custard, Cottage Cheese, Pudding, Milk (in all forms), Whey (in all forms)
Milk is sometimes found in the following:
- Baked Goods, Caramel Candies, Chocolate, Luncheon Meat, Hot Dogs, Sausages, Artificial Butter Flavor, Margarine
You will find the term “non-dairy” on food items like creamers and frozen whipped toppings.
Always read the complete list of ingredients. Be sure to look for this type of wording on packages:
- “Natural Flavoring”- contains caseinate a milk protein
- “Sodium caseinate”- a milk by-product
- “Contains: Milk”
Avoid foods that contain peanuts or any of these ingredients:
- Artificial Nuts, Monkey Nuts, Nutmeat, Peanut Flour, Mixed Nuts, Beer Nuts, Nut Pieces, Peanut Butter, Ground Nuts, Peanut Oil, Peanut Protein Hydrolysate
Peanuts are sometimes found in the following:
- Baked Goods, Enchilada Sauce, Marzipan, Mole Sauce, Chili, Candy, Egg Rolls, Nougat, and African, Asian, and Mexican Dishes
Avoid foods that contain eggs or any of these ingredients:
- Egg, Eggnog, Mayonnaise, Albumin, Meringue, Ovalbumin, Lysozyme, Surimi
Eggs are sometimes found in the following:
- Marshmallows, Pasta, Egg Substitutes, Baked Goods, Macaroni
Avoid foods that contain wheat or any of these ingredients:
- Bread Crumbs, Soy Protein, Pasta, Semolina, Flour, Matzo, Bulgur, Cereal Extract, Couscous, Durum, Wheat, Triticale
Wheat is sometimes found in the following:
- Glucose syrup, Surimi (Chinese Fish Puree), Starch, Soy Sauce
Avoid foods that contain soy or any of these ingredients:
- Soya, Soy Protein, Tamari, Tofu, Shoyu, Miso, Soybean, Soy Sauce, Tempeh, Soy, Natto, Edamame
Soy is sometimes found in the following:
- Asian cuisine, Vegetable Broth, Vegetable Gum, Vegetable Starch
Avoid foods that contain shellfish or any of these ingredients:
- Crab, Lobster, Shrimp, Crawfish, Prawn
Your doctor may advise you to avoid mollusks or these ingredients:
- Clams, Octopus, Snails, Fish Stock, Cuttlefish Ink, Mussels, Oysters, Squid, Seafood Flavoring
Please note: Be aware that cross-contamination may occur in seafood restaurants that serve many kinds of seafood.
Tree Nut Allergy
Avoid foods that contain nuts or any of these ingredients:
- Almonds, Butternut, Chestnuts, Ginkgo Nuts, Nut Butters, Pesto, Walnuts, Artificial Nuts, Cashews, Coconut, Hickory Nuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Macadamia Nuts
Tree Nuts are sometimes found in the following:
- Nut Oils, Black walnut hull extract (flavoring), Nut distillate/alcoholic extracts
- Vegan or vegetarian foods
What is “cross contact” and how can it be avoided?
Cross contact is when the food allergen is transferred to a food meant to be allergen free. Even if the infected food is cooked, the food allergen may still be present.
- If you are making several different kinds of food, make the allergy safe foods first
- Keep the safe allergen free food away and covered from the other food.
- Always use utensils, pans, and cutting boards that have been washed with soap and water.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling a food allergen.
Sources: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), EatRight.org, FoodAllergy.org
This post was last updated on January 13th, 2022 at 3:59 PM
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