Dealing with food allergies in children can be a complicated and stressful process. Although there are no permanent remedies for food allergies, they may be controlled in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to treat children with food allergies is through avoidance of the offending foods and by following special diets. It is also possible to treat the symptoms of a food allergy; a mild reaction may be treated with antihistamines, while severe reactions can be treated through administering epinephrine.
Allergic reactions to food may vary between individuals. Symptoms can appear anywhere between one minute to one hour after eating a specific food, and symptoms may include itching, trouble breathing, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or even skin conditions, such as hives or a rash. It is common for children with food allergies to have reactions to eggs, milk, peanuts and fruits. Some allergies are outgrown over time, but others stay with the individual for life.
The best treatment for children with food allergies is food avoidance. Once foods that trigger allergies are identified, a special diet should be followed to prevent consuming these foods. While some foods may be easy to avoid, other foods such as milk or nuts appear in many processed products and may be more difficult to avoid. Food labels must be carefully read to assure that the child does not consume foods that are likely to cause a reaction.
If symptoms are not severe or life threatening, antihistamines may be given to children experiencing allergic reactions to food. Antihistamines may reduce reactions such as hives, sneezing, or gastrointestinal symptoms. It should be noted that taking antihistamines before exposure to foods will not prevent a reaction from occurring.
Some children with food allergies may experience a severe reaction to some foods, which is called an anaphylactic reaction. An anaphylactic reaction involves a sudden drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, a weak pulse, vomiting and a skin rash. Anaphylactic reactions are severe and require immediate treatment.
Children experiencing an anaphylactic reaction may use epinephrine to lessen the symptoms, which may be administered at home through the use of an EpiPen®. EpiPens® are prescribed by doctors to individuals prone to severe allergic reactions and are available to children and adults who weigh more than 33 pounds (about 15 kilograms). In most cases, epinephrine will immediately lessen the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction, yet individuals should still go to an emergency room, as symptoms may return. If epinephrine is unavailable, emergency help should be sought immediately.
If it is suspected that a child has a food allergy, a doctor should be consulted to decide the best treatment measures. Food allergies can be readily diagnosed through testing, and can be effectively treated through avoidance of specific foods and management of allergic reactions. If treated properly, individuals with food allergies can have normal, healthy lives.