Posts Tagged ‘food allergies’

Peanut allergies in children

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Peanuts or no peanuts? That is the question many new parents ask themselves as they look at the ingredients in their baby’s food. When I started my babies on solid foods, I remember hovering over them for days at a time, scanning every square inch of their skin to see if there was any sign of a food allergy. Over the last 10 years, the number of children with peanut allergies has doubled, causing many parents, like me, to wonder at what age is it OK to begin giving children foods made with peanuts.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that giving your baby foods made with peanuts in the first year of life may actually help prevent peanut allergies later in life. The study involved over 600 babies and followed them until they reached age 5. These babies had a history of egg allergy or eczema, a condition that causes patches of dry, red and itchy skin. Some babies were given foods made with peanuts and other babies avoided these foods until they turned age 5. The study found that babies who were given foods made with peanuts were less likely to develop peanut allergies than babies who avoided these foods until they were older.

More research needs to be done to understand peanut and other kinds of food allergies. In the meantime, talk to your baby’s health provider if you have concerns about food allergies. As you start your baby on solid foods, give her one kind of food at a time and wait a few days before trying a new food. If your baby has signs of an allergic reaction, contact her health provider. Introducing new foods one at a time may help you find out which food caused an allergic reaction.

Halloween ideas for kids with food allergies or sensory challenges

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

pumpkinWhen you hear the word “Halloween” do you think of candy? Chocolate? Fun costumes? For children with food allergies or sensory issues, Halloween can be a frustrating evening. The thrill of getting treats can quickly become a letdown if there is nothing that your child can eat. And, the thought of wearing a costume may be the last thing your sensory special child will want to do.

Non-foods gain in popularity

Years ago, in my neighborhood, we knew of a child on our street who had food allergies. As a result, some moms decided to have an assortment of other acceptable treats to give out, so that the child with food allergies could enjoy Halloween, too.

We offered the kids non-chocolate choices, such as bags of pretzels, crackers and pops. But, surprisingly, the most popular alternatives were non-food items. Crayons, tiny notepads, little cars, plastic jewelry, glow stick necklaces, stickers, and other inexpensive but fun playthings soon became an equally desired treat for many children. I was surprised to see kids who did not have food allergies choosing stickers instead of a chocolate treat. Their eyes lit up when they saw my bucket filled with non-candy gifts. The best part is that you can get most of these items at dollar stores or discount centers, so offering alternatives won’t be a costly venture. Just be careful that you do not get tiny toys, as they can be a choking hazard to small children.

My colleague here at the March of Dimes said that the “best” house for trick or treating in her neighborhood was the one where they gave out quarters instead of candy. She and her friends loved it, as they could buy whatever treat they wanted. (But again, be careful you don’t give coins to young children as they are liable to put them in their mouths.)

When you stop to think, it makes perfect sense to widen the net of Halloween treats. Food allergies are becoming more common, so offering non-food treats is a perfect way to keep Halloween safe and yet be tons of fun. Why not think about offering non-candy treats this year and start a whole new tradition? But watch out – you may well end up being the most popular house on the block for trick or treaters!

Can’t wear a costume?

Little Red Riding HoodIf your child has sensory issues and can’t fathom the idea of putting on a costume, don’t fret. Just yesterday, a little 2 year old in my neighborhood toddled by my front steps as I was sitting there enjoying the sunshine. Her mom told me that she is sad because her daughter refuses to even try on a costume. I suggested she create a “costume” out of her regular clothes. For instance, if she has a red dress or a red hoodie, she can carry a little basket and be Little Red Riding Hood. (True confessions – I did this for my daughter when she was about that age!) Here are more ideas on how to prepare your child with sensory challenges for Halloween.  Also, you can ask your child’s Occupational Therapist for specific ideas that can make him comfortable.

Just remember, the most important thing is that your child is comfortable and safe, and has fun on Halloween.

What tricks have you tried to help your little one have fun on Halloween? Please share.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also see a Table of Contents of prior posts, here.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

Peanut allergies

Friday, July 6th, 2012

peanutsAbout 1 percent of children and adults in the United States are allergic to peanuts and peanut products, including peanut butter and any food containing peanuts. For reasons that are not well understood, peanut allergy has doubled in the past decade. Individuals with a peanut allergy can have a serious (such as difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness) or even fatal reaction if they eat peanuts. This reaction occurs because that person’s immune system reacts abnormally to usually harmless proteins in peanuts. Children and adults who are allergic to peanuts should not eat them at any time. Unfortunately, there is no proven way to prevent peanut allergy in a child.

Should a pregnant woman eat peanuts or peanut products? Women who are allergic to peanuts should not eat peanuts or peanut products during pregnancy or at any other time. Studies suggest, however, that women who are not allergic to peanuts can safely eat peanuts during pregnancy.

Because peanut allergy tends to run in families, health care providers have been seeking ways to help prevent this allergy in babies from affected families. Until recently, experts recommended that women who aren’t allergic to peanuts but who have a family history of peanut allergy avoid peanuts during pregnancy. However, recent studies have found no evidence that avoiding peanuts in pregnancy helps prevent peanut allergies in the child.

Peanuts can be healthy food choices for pregnant women. Peanuts are a good source of protein and folate. Folate is the form of folic acid that is found naturally in foods. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy helps prevent certain serious birth defects of the brain and spine. The March of Dimes recommends that all women who could become pregnant take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, and make healthy food choices that include foods rich in folic acid.

If a woman is not allergic to peanuts, she can eat peanuts and peanut products while breastfeeding. There is no evidence that avoiding peanuts during breastfeeding helps prevent peanut allergies in the child.

Infants and young children who have been diagnosed with a peanut allergy should never eat peanuts or peanut products. Until recently, experts recommended delaying introduction of peanuts and peanut products to children with a family history of peanut allergy until age 3. But recent studies suggest that this delay does not help prevent peanut allergy.

In fact, a 2008 study found a 10-fold greater risk of peanut allergy in children who did not eat peanuts in infancy and early childhood compared to those who ate high quantities of peanuts. Additional studies are needed to determine whether eating peanuts in early childhood can help prevent peanut allergy in high-risk children.

To learn more about peanut allergies, the signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, read our article.

Can food allergies be prevented?

Friday, June 6th, 2008

My nephew was allergic to all sorts of foods when he was small and my sister went through several terrifying years while she introduced new things to his diet.  Fortunately, over time, he outgrew many of them, but he is still deathly allergic to peanuts and a couple of other things and carries an EpiPen in his backpack.  Interestingly, his little sister isn’t allergic to a thing.

Medical research on prevention of food allergies is limited and incomplete. After reviewing a wide range of medical research, the American Academy of Pediatrics has made these recommendations about food allergies in children:
• Avoiding certain foods in pregnancy does not appear to prevent food allergies in children.
• We don’t know for certain if breastfeeding can prevent or delay food allergies. For infants who have a parent, brother or sister with a food allergy, drinking only breastmilk for at least four months may reduce the risk of allergy to cow’s milk. Certain formulas that do not contain cow’s milk may also reduce the risk.
• Soy-based infant formula does not appear to prevent food allergy.
• Doctors recommend that most babies start eating solid foods between 4-6 months of age. Some people have thought that food allergies might be prevented if parents delayed giving their babies certain solid foods (for instance, fish, eggs, peanut butter). But current medical research does not support this idea.

Medical research about food allergies is continuing. If you have any questions about food and your baby, ask your child’s health care provider.