Halal Consumer - Issue 26 - page 11

Approximately six million children suffer from food allergies,
an immune system reaction that occurs shortly after eating a
particular kind of food, usually in the form of a severe allergic
reaction called “anaphylaxis.” The Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) recently found that the incidence of these
food allergies among children has steadily risen since 1997. Two
years later, the CDC found that food allergies actually increased
by over three percent, and has continued to rise by over five per-
cent in the last 10 years. Some common foods that make up 90
percent of these food-allergy reactions in children include milk,
eggs, peanuts, wheat, and soybean.
Although these figures may not be alarming to the
medical community, there is a strong possibility pedia-
tricians and allergy specialists will continue to see a
prevalence of children with food allergies. According
to Dr. Chitra Dinakar, an allergist and immunologist at
Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and a Professor
of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City,
there are a number of reasons why food allergies are so
pervasive among children in today’s society. One factor is
known as the “hygiene hypothesis.”
“Children in developed countries have less exposure to
a variety of bacteria and germs because of how hygienic
their surroundings are,” says Dinakar. “If there is less of
that exposure, then your body starts switching to more
of an allergic response because the immune balance is
upset and starts reacting to harmless, normal agents
such as ragweed or peanut or dust mite that you should
be tolerant to.”
Dinakar, who is also a fellow of the American Academy
of Pediatrics (AAP), says if your child suffers from a
food allergy the only real treatment is strict food avoid-
ance, as trace amounts of the allergic response foods
can potentially cause a fatal allergic reaction. However,
in the instance your child has intolerance to certain
foods such as milk or gluten, a condition when the body
can tolerate food but simply cannot properly digest it
particularly when consumed in large quantities; studies
have shown these children can outgrow these intoler-
ances over time.
Whether your child suffers from food allergies or food
intolerances, Dinakar advises parents to work closely
with their child’s pediatrician or physician as well
as their school’s health administrators and nurses to
ensure their health is being properly monitored dur-
ing lunch and snack times throughout the day. Make
a list of foods your child should avoid and share it
with the school health administrators. Also provide a
prescription epinephrine injection in case they experience an
allergic reaction at school.
If you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, rec-
ognize you are not alone. Food Allergy Research and Education
estimates 1 in 13 children is diagnosed with food allergies.
Seek the support of other parents of children with food aller-
gies and offer them your support. You can work together in your
school to help the health administrators and the children cope.
You should also talk to your child and advise them not to trade
lunch with friends. Let them know if they ever feel scared or
concerned about something they ate at school they should let
their teacher know immediately. You might also consider a food
allergy medical alert bracelet.
Parent’s Back-To-School
‘To Do List’
• Receive an accurate diagnosis from your child’s doc-
tor (i.e. food allergy vs. food intolerance).
• Have the doctor provide a “food allergy action plan”
or a list of foods your child should avoid as well as
an epinephrine prescription; provide these for the
school nurse in case of an allergic reaction.
Inform school administrators and other staff about
your child’s health needs; make sure to leave your
contact information with your child’s teacher.
• Check with your child's school to see if it provides
dietary alternatives.
• Create your own food allergy support group with
other parents at your child’s school.
• Get in the habit of reading food product labels; en-
courage your child to do the same.
Fall 2013
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