Public Health Resources: A Guide to Food Allergies
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans have allergies, with about 4 to 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults, having food allergies. Although food allergy symptoms are more common in babies and children, they can appear at any age. It’s even possible to develop allergies to foods you have eaten for years, with little to no problems. In fact, there are eight types of foods which account for about 90 percent of all reactions including: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat and soy.
The body’s immune system works to keep you healthy by fighting off infections and other potential dangers to health. However, a food allergy reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a food or substance in a food. It then identifies the item as a danger to the body, and triggers defensive responses ranging from mild to severe, sometimes including anaphylaxis – a life threatening whole-body allergic reaction which can impair breathing, cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and even affect heart rate. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may involve the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and/or the cardiovascular system, and often present with symptoms such as: vomiting, stomach cramps, hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, repetitive cough, shock or circulatory collapse, hoarse throat, trouble swallowing, swelling of the tongue, difficulty breath or talking, a weak pulse, pale or blue coloring of the skin, dizziness, or anaphylaxis. Most food-related symptoms occur within two hours and should be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system, which means the immune system reacts to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) and attacks the lining of the small intestine. Around 3 to 13 in 1,000 children have celiac and symptoms can appear as early as 6 months. More often though, children are diagnosed with celiac disease later in childhood, typically after the age of 10. Celiac symptoms vary but can include abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, bloating, constipation, gassiness, vomiting, irritability, weight loss, and even delayed growth. However, some children may never show symptoms. If your child has been diagnosed with celiac disease, food containing gluten should be eliminated from the diet throughout their entire life. Luckily, symptoms should begin to disappear soon after eliminating gluten, and the small intestine should heal within a few months. However, if untreated, children with celiac disease can develop iron-deficiency, anemia, malnutrition, weakened bones, and short stature. There is also a higher chance of developing other autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s disease.
Kids Health: Food Allergies - Learn more in this kid-friendly article about food allergies, reactions, how allergies are treated, and making a plan.
Food Allergy 101 - Food Allergy Research and Education provides facts and resources on food allergies.
Food Allergies in Children - The American Academy of Pediatrics article on food allergies in children.
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology - Learn more about peanut allergies, one of the most common food allergies found in children in the United States.
The Signs and Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity - Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reviews the signs and symptoms of a gluten sensitivity, as well as the next steps that should be taken.
Gluten-Free Diet Guide for Families (PDF) – The Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation provides a comprehensive PDF document for families following a gluten-free diet, including a shopping list.
Gluten Intolerance Group - Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy - discover what the differences.
Health Essentials: Cleveland Clinic - Discover the five signs and symptoms that your child is lactose intolerant.
Everyday Health: Digestive Health - What is the difference between lactose intolerance or a milk allergy? Learn more here.
Kids With Food Allergies: A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America - Discover the largest list of “free of” recipes, shared by thousands of parents with kids who have food allergies.
Super Healthy Kids - Find thousands of kid-friendly fresh dairy free recipes featuring healthy fruits and vegetables, with time-saving preparation tips and support for picky eaters.
Milk Free Mom - Dairy-free recipes for busy moms and their families.
Go Dairy Free - Five healthy, quick, and kid-friendly dairy-free meal recipes.
Beyond Celiac - Here you’ll find gluten-free kids recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert.
Kidspot - Ten nights of kid-friendly gluten-free dinners.
Parenting - Fifteen nut-free lunch recipes and snack for kids with nut allergies.
Fifty School-Approved Nut-Free Snacks for Kids - A recipe resource guide for parents with kids going to a school establishing a “nut free zone”.
Twenty Healthy School Recipes: Nut-Free, Gluten-Free, and Low Sugar - All Day I Dream About Food provides healthy recipes for school-age children.
Visit USC Online Master of Public Health to find more information.