Your Child and Peanut Allergies
If your child suffers from peanut allergies, you already understand that peanuts are nothing to toy with. The first sign of trouble usually appears early on, most likely with the first taste of peanut butter, an American childhood staple. And despite the dangers for some, the peanut is a cultural staple in the U.S. The average American eats up to 8-pounds per year.
The allergic reaction is usually very swift if not immediate. Common signs of serious peanut allergy can include vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, hives, eczema, itching or swelling of the lips, tongue and mouth, scratchiness or tightness in the throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing, collapse and sometimes death.
While Americans love their peanuts, increasing numbers are allergic. About 4-million Americans have some kind of food allergy, peanut allergies being one of the most common and the most deadly. In severe cases, even minute trace amounts of peanut can be deadly. For instance, some children can't even kiss a grandparent who's just eaten a peanut product for fear of reaction.
So, how do you know if your child is allergic to peanuts? Allergic response can begin between mere minutes and up to one hour after ingesting food. The more severe the reaction; the more likely it is to have rapid onset. A delayed reaction can occur 4 to 6- hours later.
Avoiding peanuts is your best bet, but it's not always easy to do. In a recent study, 75-percent of the patients with a peanut allergy failed to avoid food products containing peanuts. This is because peanuts are often a "hidden" ingredient in many foods - including candy, biscuits, pastries, chilli and egg rolls. Even if peanuts aren't an ingredient, cross contamination can occur when multiple food products are produced in a single facility.
Due to the challenges associated with managing a peanut allergy, the Canadian Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology has joined with provincial affiliates and allergy organizations in Ontario, Canada, to issue recommendations on managing anaphylaxis in public schools. The resulting guidelines advise against the trading or sharing of foods. They also encourage hand washing and state that food-allergic children should only eat lunches and snacks that have been prepared at home. The strongest statements were put forth for the youngest school-aged children. They propose a complete restriction of peanuts and peanut butter from nurseries, day care centers and early elementary grades in all Canadian schools, in order to reduce the risk of accidental exposure.
Allergies can be a serious medical condition. However, you can help your child stay safe and reduce their eating stresses by educating them on how to manage their allergies. Here are some guidelines:
- Ensure that your child understands how important it is that allergenic substances are restricted from their diet. Sit and learn about his/her diet together. List potential problem foods, teach them how to read food labels and construct sample menus based on their favourite foods. Make diet restrictions a normal part of your household. It helps if the whole family participates.
- Give your child as much control over food choices as possible. The more choices your child has; the more cooperative he/she will be. Let your child pack their own lunch. Keep only allowable foods in the home at all times. Consider a MEDIC Alert bracelet.
- Stress the importance of eating only his food at school and make sure that it's understood that sharing a friend's lunch or snack is absolutely prohibited for their safety. Have your child share his food instead! This will help friends understand and appreciate your child's way of eating.
- Send special treats for your child to school for parties and festivities. Be sure to send enough for him to share with his friends.
- Keep a positive attitude when enforcing the importance of your child's diet. Praise him for his efforts and remember that your child is a normal child who just has to eat a bit differently.