SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and physicians are warning parents to keep a close eye on their children’s reactions to food as they transition back into the classroom.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50% in the last few years.
And the prevalence of peanut and tree nut allergies has more than tripled in American children.
“A lot of school nutritionists go over the most common allergens, and they make the child or parent aware that they’re going to be serving that food,” SouthCoast Health Dietician Rebekah Laurance told WSAV NOW. “Now, a lot of places don’t allow peanuts or peanut butter.”
Compared to children who don’t have a food allergy, children with food allergies are four times as likely to have other allergic reactions.
“Look at food additives,” Laurance explained. “There’s a lot more of these things in food now than there used to be, and you’ll see more food allergies because of that.”
Eight most common food allergies make up 90% of allergic reactions. They include milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame.
But Laurance says it may not be the food itself that’s causing the issue.
“There are foods that have pollen on them, especially during this time of the year. So they may not actually be allergic to the food, but they may be allergic to the pollen.”
She says the best thing you can do is have your children try a wide variety of foods while they’re young.
“Early exposure to peanuts is important for keeping peanut allergies from developing. But a lot of people are afraid that their child will have a peanut allergy, so they don’t introduce it.”
Laurance also advises parents and caretakers to know the signs of an allergic reaction so you can catch it early.
“They usually have trouble breathing; they might have rashes, red swelling and things like that,” she explained. “They may seem more fatigued or tired or seem a little out of it. But it’s usually very noticeable.”
If someone appears to be going into anaphylactic shock, Laurance says to call 911 and elevate their legs to keep their blood flowing.
Help them use their EpiPen if they have one, she advises, and give them CPR if they aren’t breathing until help arrives.