Children having allergy food product reactions such as peanuts at earlier ages.

Children are having potentially life-threatening allergy food product reactions to peanuts at much earlier ages than a decade ago, signaling a need to be even more vigilant about offering toddlers and preschoolers that old childhood staple — peanut butter and jelly.

Allergy Food Product Basics

Over 12 million Americans have food allergies; more than 3 million of them are children (that's almost 1 out of every 25 kids). The most common allergy-causing foods are peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, etc.), milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. Recent studies showed that 3.3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, and 6.9 million are allergic to seafood.

A lot of kids have questions about allergy food product. Here are some of the things they are asking: Want to see what happens inside the body when a reaction occurs?

Most people with allergies make tiny molecules, called IgE antibodies, that are like tiny antennae that can tell when the food a person is allergic to enters the body. These antennae sit on cells called "mast cells", which appear throughout the body.

Mast cells are filled with chemicals. Some of those chemicals are histamine. When someone with a food allergy eats the food they are allergic to, the proteins of that food (the part of the food that causes the allergy) attach to the IgE on the mast cell.

This causes the mast cell to explode, sending chemicals throughout the body. The chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

What are some of the symptoms of food allergy?

The most common symptom of a food-allergy reaction is hives. Other symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • tingling in the mouth
  • swelling of the tongue and throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • stomach cramps
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • eczema

How can I treat these symptoms?

Your doctor will tell you what kind of medicine you need to take. Many prescribe an antihistamine, such as Benadryl®. If your reaction is severe, your doctor may prescribe epinephrine. It is available as an EpiPen® or Twinject®.

How can I prevent a reaction from happening?

Strictly avoiding the food that triggers your allergy is the only way to prevent a reaction. Check out our tips for how to stay safe.

Is there a cure for food allergy?

Currently, there is no cure for food allergies; however, the research being conducted looks promising!

Even though pediatricians recommend waiting until children are at least 3 to give them foods containing peanuts, Duke University Medical Center researchers found that kids born after 2000 experienced their first adverse reaction to them at a median age of 14 months.

Ten years ago, that median age was 2 years according to the Duke team, which published its findings Sunday in the journal Pediatrics.

The Duke findings are the latest wrinkle in a world where food allergies among children are so much more prevalent that some schools across the country have taken to banning peanut products altogether and replacing them with some

While peanut allergy is still relatively rare, affecting about 1.8 million Americans, researchers agree that the numbers are rising — particularly among children. Studies suggest the incidence in children under 5 has doubled since 1997, though the Duke researchers and other scientists don't fully understand why.

It could be that doctors are diagnosing the allergies more than in previous generations. It could also be that food-processing and dietary changes play a role, as do environmental pollutants.

One popular theory, according to the senior author of the Pediatrics article, is the so-called "hygiene hypothesis," which, simply put, argues that our children are born into a world so scrubbed of germs and bona fide threats that the immune system begins to attack everyday substances such as peanuts, eggs, wheat or milk.

Dr. Wesley Burks, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke and senior author of the journal article, has been working on ways to densensitize kids to food allergies by exposing them to small doses of the allergens over time.

In collaboration with scientists at Arkansas Children's Hospital, Burks' lab reported early this year that they successfully reversed egg allergy in children by feeding them small but increasing amounts of egg protein.

Burks has been using the same approach with peanuts, though it likely will be years before the therapy is widely available.

Until then Burks suggests keeping an antihistamine such as Benadryl on hand in case of emergency. Serious reactions typically require treatment with epinephrine, a hormone that can quickly stop a life-threatening allergic episode.

Tips for Managing Allergy Food Product.

So, you're allergic to a food. Now what?! No need to panic. You CAN learn how to manage your allergy. Here are some tips to help keep you safe on allergy food product

Read the Labels on allergy food product.

Learn the scientific names used for listing foods on labels. For example, casein is one of many words that mean milk. If you need help, talk to your parents, your doctor, or call FAAN at (800) 929-4040.

Read the labels on all allergy food product all the time – how else will you know what's in your food? Don't eat food that doesn't have a label!

Carry Your Medicine

Make sure you know about allergy food product how and when to use your medicine if you have a reaction. If your doctor says you need to carry medicine, such as EpiPen® or Twinject®, be sure to have it with you wherever you go. If you have any questions about your medicines, ask your doctor.

You may want to keep an "allergy food product medicine kit." This can be a bag (available from FAAN), a waist pack, or a small backpack that holds your medicine, the name and phone number of someone to call in case of an emergency, and any notes from your doctor in case you have a reaction. Ask Questions

Just because a food looks safe doesn't mean it is. We've found weird ingredients in the craziest places. We've heard of peanut butter in chili and hot chocolate, pecans in barbecue sauce, and milk and soy in deli meats, just to name a few! Ask questions about ingredients before you eat anything. Don't Take Chances

Sharing food with your friends is risky. How do you know if the food is safe? Your friend's cupcake may look good, but if it has something you are allergic to, it could make you feel very sick. The best policy is: don't trade food! Practice Makes Perfect

When was the last time you practiced using your epinephrine medicine (EpiPen® or Twinject®)?

You can get a trainer, which allows you and your friends to practice using an auto-injector. They look just like the real thing, but they don't have a needle or medicine, and they are re-useable so everyone can practice over and over again. Ask your doctor or parents about how to get one.

Find a PAL™

Teach your friends How to Be a PAL: Protect A Life™ from peanut food allergy. Tell them which foods you need to avoid and what happens when you have a reaction. Also show them how to use your medicine so they can help you if you're having a reaction on peanut food allergy.

Be Prepared!

Remember, reactions are never planned. Learning how to handle them in advance is the best thing to do. Ask your parents and your doctor to help you create a "What if…" plan.

Think about different situations you might find yourself in. What if you were having a reaction away from home?

Who would you tell? Who would call your parents? What medicine would you take?

Terry, the wise owl, says,

Always make sure you have money for a phone call or carry a cell phone in case you need to call home. Back home page from allergy food product page

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