Our Nurse’s Corner: Food Allergies on the Rise in Kids

The prevalence of children in the U.S. who have skin and food allergies with associated Anaphylaxis has risen significantly in the last few years. According to a study released this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.

Allergies are among the most common medical conditions that affect kids in the U.S. An allergic condition is defined as a hypersensitivity disorder (Anaphylaxis) in which the immune system responds to certain substances in the environment that are generally considered nontoxic.

The most common allergies among kids are:

1. Respiratory allergies (Hay Fever)
2. Skin allergies (Eczema)
3. Food allergies (Egg, Fish/Shellfish, Nuts/Peanut, Soy, Wheat, Milk)

Allergies can impact a child’s physical and emotional health and can hinder normal daily activities like play, sleep, and going to school. Foods are the most common cause of Anaphylaxis among children and teenagers. Even small amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Finding these allergies early in kids as well as making the correct interventions can help to reduce the negative outcome on their quality of life.

Food allergy is a growing public health concern. Nearly 6 million children in the U.S. have food allergies with young children most affected. Boys appear to develop food allergies more than girls. Although childhood allergies to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy generally resolve in childhood, they appear to be resolving more slowly than in previous decades, with many children still allergic beyond age 5. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish or shellfish are generally lifelong allergies.

There is no data as to why food allergies are on the rise and there is no cure. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions to food are important measures to prevent serious health consequences. Reading food labels, being aware of particular food menu warnings when eating away from home, and avoiding cross-contact during food preparation when cooking are just a few ways to manage food allergies.

More than 15% of school age children with food allergies have had a reaction in school. Food allergy reactions happen in multiple locations throughout the school and are not limited to the cafeteria. If your child has known food allergies you will need to notify your child’s school of the particular allergens. Working with the district nurse and your child’s physician will make the staff aware of any allergies that your child may have and will help to prevent any kind of allergic reaction at school.

Article by Dagmar Paul, RN, MSN/District NurseĀ 

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