What you need to know about food allergies

Kids with food allergies often have anxiety about food. They may feel left out at meals or parties, or get teased or bullied because they are different, yet it’s actually fairly common to have a food allergy. In fact, one in 13 kids under the age of six has a food allergy, which equals about two kids in every classroom.

As Halloween approaches, it’s a good time to review food allergy information. While any food can cause an allergic reaction, the most common reactions come from peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may range from minor such as itching and hives, to anaphylaxis, a whole-body reaction that can include stomach pain or cramping, trouble breathing, confusion, cough, diarrhea, trouble swallowing, fainting, nausea, vomiting and more.

If a person is having a food allergy reaction, they need help right away. Depending on the symptoms they may need an antihistamine or epinephrine.

As you prepare to celebrate holidays and special events, here are a few considerations: 

  1. Hold the chocolate. Add some chocolate-free, peanut-free treats to your bowl. Nearly all chocolate treats on the market are made on equipment shared with peanuts and tree nuts (and are unsafe for those with milk allergy). Take a look at the chocolate-free options – such as Dum Dums® suckers, DOTS® and Smarties®. (Remember to always read labels and check with parents before giving any food to children with food allergies.)
  2. Mix it up! Change the focus to non-food treats, such as holiday-themed pencils, notepads, stickers, goofy erasers or fun rings.
  3. Wash your hands! If students with food allergies come in contact with food from sticky fingerprints, it can make them sick, too. Washing hands after you eat is a great way to prevent unsafe foods from getting on shared tables, desks, school supplies, and toys or games.

Help the kids in your life be aware of their own – or a friend’s – food allergies and check out our “Food Allergy Awareness” lesson.  Establishing good, life-long, eating habits starts now!