Food Allergies Require Vigilance

An estimated five- to eight- percent of Americans have a food allergy.

(CBS)

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Many of favorite foods can serve up a whole lot of trouble for some people.

An estimated five- to eight- percent of Americans have a food allergy. Dr. Khalil Alleyne of the Cotton-O'Neil Clinic in Carbondale says there isn't solid evidence to support a test to diagnose food allergies. He says the best way to find out what a child might be allergic to is to introduce new foods slowly. As you're introducing solids to a child, he says, wait about three days to introduce a new food to find out how the child reacts to the previous additions.

Alleyne says cow's milk, soy, eggs and peanuts are among the most common allergies. In many cases, the person's reaction will be hives - itchy welts on the skin. Those can be treated with over the counter antihistamines like Benadryl. See a doctor if the condition doesn't improve.

But every three minutes, more serious reactions send a person to the emergency room. The most severe form, Alleyne says, is anaphylaxis which is a systemic reaction where they might become lightheaded and pass out, become short of breath or develop hives so severe that swelling in the throat chokes off their airway.

People who get severe reactions should carry an "epi pen" with them, which has medication to counteract the reaction. Alleyne says parents should make sure a child with severe food allergies has the epi pen with them at school or when visiting friends. Children also should be made aware of foods they must avoid, and parents should check ingredients and read labels carefully. Nuts, for example, can be in cooking oils.

Alleyne says food allergies can be a hyper response, where even a little bit can trigger a severe reaction that, if not treated promptly, could be fatal.

Unfortunately, food allergies are somewhat of a mystery. Some can go away, and some foods that were no problem before can suddenly bite back. Alleyne says you can slowly test to see if you've outgrown a food allergy - but if you've ever had a severe reaction to a food, he wouldn't recommend it.


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