Doctor shares tips for parents of children with food allergies

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On a table in her Atlanta practice, Centre SpringMD's Dr. Taz Bhatia has collected some of the most problematic foods for kids with allergies.

"It's peanuts, probably number 1," Bhatia says, listing the allergens. "Eggs, milk or dairy. Wheat is a very common allergy as well, and then in the entire tree nut family, everything from coconut to cashews. All of that, many children are allergic to."Soy can also trigger a reaction, as can fish and shellfish.

The Food Allergy Research and Education network (FARE) estimates one out of every 13 children in the United States has food allergies. In all, up to 15 million Americans are affected.
Dr. Bhatia says some children have only mild symptoms.

"It could be their eyes start to water, or their nose starts to run," she says. "It could be just a little discoloration around the mouth."

Some allergic reactions are more severe, causing hives, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and trouble breathing. Some children may have a life-threatening reaction, know anaphylaxis.

"But I think (watch for) anything that is progressing," Dr. Bhatia says. "You go from hives to trouble breathing. You're ramping on up, or you see that crescendo of symptoms escalating, you need to see a doctor. You need to go to the emergency room."

If you have a child with a food allergy, Dr. Bhatia says be vigilant. Check food labels. Ask how food was prepared. And be careful about cross-contamination.

"Kids with severe allergies are super sensitive, whether it's in the air or on their skin, or whether it's ingested."

Dr. Bhatia says children with severe food allergies should always carry an epinephrine or EpiPen injector.

When it's needed, she says, that injector could save your child's life.