Allergic reactions are frightening at any age but for parents caring for a child with allergies, the sense of a lack of control significantly increases their fear and worry. The article “Life-Threatening Allergic Reactions in Children”, featured in The New York Times’ April 2018 edition, highlighted some important concerns and facts about allergic reactions in children.
In the United States, about 8% of children have a food allergy; and some studies suggest that these childhood food allergies are resolving more slowly than previously thought. For this reason, more school-aged children are at risk for allergic reactions.
Allergic reactions in school occur in students with a known food allergy, as well as those who have no past history of an allergy. Up to 18% of children with a food allergy have experienced an allergic reaction in school or at daycare and, up to one quarter of reactions occurring at school affects people who are unaware of their risk of having a reaction. Children with a history of seasonal allergies, food allergies or asthma may also be at higher risk of having a more severe allergic reaction. It’s important that school age children who have had an allergic reaction understand what they are allergic to, and, be able to let others know about their specific allergies.
While allergic reactions can be frightening, it is important to know that there are things that can be done to decrease the risk of having a severe reaction such as:
- Introducing foods during infancy. Studies show that, for infants, earlier introduction of certain foods (such as peanut) can help decrease the development of allergy to that specific food later in life. This should always be discussed with your child’s doctor prior to introduction of solids.
- Determining potential triggers through allergy testing. If there is a concern that your child may have allergies to food, certain medications, certain insects or environmental allergens, we are able identify potential triggers based on their history and with allergy testing.
- Understanding the signs and treatment of an allergic reaction. If your child has a food allergy, we spend quality time with you to review signs and symptoms to look out for, how best to avoid exposure to these foods, and how to treat a reaction when it occurs. We provide education regarding the use of epinephrine auto-injectors and when to use one.
- Food Desensitization Programs. Oral immunotherapy (aka- Food Desensitization) is carried out under medical supervision in a medical facility and involves eating a carefully measured amount of the food the patient is allergic to. The initial dose of the food is designed to be small enough to not trigger an allergic reaction and throughout the treatment program, the dosage of the food is slowly increased.
We are both excited and incredibly proud to offer oral immunotherapy at Advanced Allergy & Asthma Care. Currently, we provide desensitization to peanut, certain tree nuts, milk, and egg and will soon be offering desensitization to sesame as well. It’s so rewarding to see children who had severe reactions to certain foods in the past, now being able to tolerate them without fear. With food desensitization, children and families can enjoy an improved quality of life—something that the traditional management of food allergies, avoiding foods and carrying epinephrine, couldn’t offer.
At Advanced Allergy & Asthma Care, our allergists believe that knowledge and understanding is the key to preventing serious allergic reactions. In addition to food allergy, we treat, insect, nasal, eye, and skin allergies, as well as sinus infections and asthma. We are happy to serve our local community and we have offices in the Fairfield County, CT towns of Danbury, Norwalk, Ridgefield and New Milford.
- by Dr. Neetu Godhwani