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Children and food allergies

A helpful guide

By DesiRae Dinius, PA-C
Family Practice Provider at CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson Medical Clinic

According to the CDC approximately 1 out of every 25 children is affected by a food allergy and 20% of these will have a reaction while at school.  Allergic reactions, specifically to foods, can be very unpredictable. Onset is not necessarily in infancy and new allergies may present at any point in time.  In fact, 25% of students who have severe, life-threatening reactions in school have no previous known food allergy.

What you can do as a parent:

  • Do not send snacks that contain any peanuts or tree nuts or that are processed in a facility with these. Monitor what your older child takes for snack so they do not take a potentially dangerous snack unintentionally.  
  • Use non-food items for celebrations and birthdays.  
  • Remind your child to wash their hands when arriving to school (or home) and before and after eating.  
  • Do not allow children to trade or share food.
  • Be aware of any of your child’s friends or classmates that have any allergies.  

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:

  • Rash or itchiness
  • Swollen eyes, lips or tongue
  • Coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting
  • Children may not describe their symptoms clearly such as saying their tongue tingles or feels like it has hair on it.  They may describe a “frog” in their throat. Be aware there are many ways to describe symptoms of an allergic reaction.  

Regardless of how careful people may be, there is still always a chance that allergic reaction may occur.  The most important reaction is to stay calm. Treatment of each reaction will vary by child and may include allergy medication such as Benadryl. Many children with severe allergies may carry an injectable medication called epinephrine. If a child you are in contact with carries this, be sure to examine it and know how to use the injector. Allergy treatment plans are created by the child’s medical provider. If you are caring for a child who has an allergic reaction follow this plan and do not hesitate to seek emergency medical care.