It is true ignorance is bliss! Back in 2004, I received a call from the director of the preschool, my daughter then age 2 attended. To paraphrase the call, “Don’t panic, but we want to know if Regina has any known food allergies?” I said, no. However, the director insisted I come pick her up and take her immediately to the the hospital. She had packed up the trail mix and had Regina sitting on a couch with warm compress to her eyes. One side of her eye was swollen and pink. The director suspected that Regina was having an allergic reaction to something in the trail mix. I actually felt upset for the concern, I felt she was over reacting, despite seeing that one side of her eye was swollen and her lips were really red. I took Regina home and did not take her to the doctor as advised. I am certain I am not the only parent that has felt inconvenienced and refused advice. But I must say that I was a lucky parent!
Three days later at my office, Regina bit into a cupcake made with cashew and immediately started throwing up. The parent who had made the cashew asked if Regina had food allergy and was certain that she was having an anaphylaxic reaction. I just brushed it off as I had very limited knowledge of food allergy. I put her in my office and helped her lay down, few minutes later I came back to check on her and she was sound asleep. In my nativity, I thought she was probably sleeping from all the vomiting. This time I was scared enough to take her to the doctor. It turned out she was deadly allergic to tree nuts and when I thought she was sleeping deeply, that it was anaphylaxic reaction. During anaphylaxis, allergic symptoms can affect several areas of the body and may threaten breathing and blood circulation. Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, http://www.foodallergy.org/anaphylaxis. Three years, later my son also had food reaction, this time I was smarter and immediately got him tested for food allergies and sure enough he had multiple food allergies. Common food allergies in the US are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food allergies account for approximately 300,000 ambulatory care visits in the U.S. for children under the age of 18 each year.
Having food label is important, but teaching children how to read the label is critical and essential. Learning to understand the label is a safety tool. If you have children with food allergies, the sooner you teach them to ask clear questions, the more likely you reduce the chance of having your child in the hospital or worse. Once my son and I were at a Whole Foods event, and my son was offered a product, he asked the gentle man if the product had milk. The gentleman looked at the label and said no. My son proceeded to ask if the product had casein or milk based protein and the man said no. My son then asked if he could please read the label. Right underneath the word protein was the disclaimer (with casein base milk protein). Don’t just train your children to ask, but teach them to read the labels. There are several resources and websites with printable information to help you teach your child about food allergy management. Please click on any of the links below: