Kids’ Food Allergies For Dummies (Australia/New Zealand Edition)
Receiving a diagnosis of food allergy for your child may be confusing if you don’t have any sort of medical background. There are allergic reactions to monitor (what is the difference between a mild and severe (anaphylaxis) reaction anyway?), allergy terminology to learn and allergens and foods to avoid for your child’s particular allergy. You'll find some handy information about all of these topics in the lists following, as well as some advice for how to prepare your child with food allergies for school camps.
How to Tell Severity of Kids' Food Allergy Reactions
Carers of children with food allergies must be able to tell the difference between a mild or moderate allergic reaction, and a severe reaction anaphylaxis (which is life-threatening). Without this knowledge, the child’s life can be put in danger, because anaphylaxis requires an urgent injection of adrenaline (with an EpiPen or AnaPen).
The following lists provide a summary of the symptoms of mild to moderate allergic reactions and a severe reaction (anaphylaxis).
Signs of a mild to moderate allergic reaction (listed in order of frequency of symptoms in cases):
Swelling of the lips, eyes or face
Vomiting and abdominal pain
Signs of anaphylaxis — any of the preceding signs together with any one of the following (listed in order of frequency of symptoms in cases):
Wheezing or noisy breathing
Loss of consciousness or collapse
Pale and floppy (infants and young children)
Understanding Common Delayed Food Allergy Terms
If your child is diagnosed with a delayed food allergy, you may find yourself confronted with a whole list of medical terms, some of which you may not have encountered previously. The following list gives you some guidance about what the more common terms mean:
Colitis: Inflammation of the colon (large intestine)
Enteropathy: Inflammation of the small intestine
Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE): Inflammation of the esophagus involving allergy inflammatory cells called eosinophils
Food-protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES): Inflammation of the small and large intestine.
Proctocolitis: Inflammation of the rectum and colon
Watching Out for Food that Contains Common Allergens
When your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, you may start to wonder what your son or daughter will and won’t be able to eat. The diagnosis of a food allergy can put strain on your recipe repertoire, which is why you should consider visiting a registered dietitian after diagnosis — to help you come up with meal ideas.
In the meantime, here’s a list of common allergens and foods that contain them, to help you know what to avoid:
Eggs are commonly found in the following food types:
Custard and marshmallows
Mayonnaise, béarnaise sauce and hollandaise sauce
Meringue and pavlova
Quiche, frittata and omelette
Cow’s milk or cow’s milk products are commonly included in
Biscuits and cakes
Butter and cheese
Cream, ice-cream and yoghurt
Infant rusks and bread
Foods commonly containing peanuts include
Cakes, biscuits and muesli bars
Wheat is a common component of the Western diet, being used to make bread, cakes, biscuits as well as being an ingredient in a variety of meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
Soy is commonly found in the following foods:
Most vegetarian meat-substitutes
Soy milk, soy cheese and soy ice-cream
Tofu and tempeh
Other products containing soy flour, such as cakes, biscuits, pastries, sauces, soups and baby cereals
Foods that commonly contain fish or shellfish products include:
Bouillabaisse and seafood stews
Fish or seafood dips, sauces and mousses
Fish or prawn paste (commonly used in Asian cooking)
Pizzas and pasta sauces (which sometimes include anchovies)
Tempura (which commonly includes prawns)
Foods that commonly contain tree nuts or tree nut products include
Baklava (made from various tree nuts)
Cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals and muesli bars
Middle Eastern and Asian cooking
Nut pastes and nut butters
Pralines (usually made from hazelnuts), flourless cakes and marzipan (usually made from almond meal) and Nutella (made from hazelnuts)
Sweets such as chocolate, nougat and fudge
Planning for School Camp When Your Child Has Food Allergies
If you’re a parent about to send your child with food allergies off on school camp, you may feel a bit concerned about what could happen while your son or daughter is at camp. Here are some tips for what you can do to help camp staff take care of your child:
Communicate with the school (particularly the camp coordinator) well in advance of the camp to discuss your child’s food allergies and the school’s allergy and anaphylaxis policy. Check that the school has an emergency response plan that has been developed specifically for the camp location and discuss the risk minimisation strategies that will be put in place for your child while on camp.
Provide the school with written information about your child’s food allergies and any other medical conditions such as asthma, including an up-to-date personalised emergency action plan for allergic reactions (or an emergency action plan for anaphylaxis if your child has been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector) and asthma action plan (if required).
Meet with the camp operators to discuss how they usually manage food allergies and whether camp staff have been trained in recognition and management of allergic reactions and the use of adrenaline autoinjectors.
Meet with the camp chefs and/or cooks to discuss whether they have knowledge of the special attention required when preparing meals for children with food allergies and for your child’s food allergies. You may also wish to explore whether you could supply meals and snacks for your child to bring on camp.
Make an appointment with your doctor to review your child’s food allergies. Your doctor can update your child’s emergency action plan, check that the adrenaline auto-injector (if prescribed) is appropriate for your child’s weight and not expired, provide any additional medications or documentation your child may need for the camp.
If your child has asthma, your doctor can also check that the asthma is under control and can update the asthma action plan.
Prepare your child’s emergency medical kit. Check that this is clearly labelled and contains up-to-date medications, including an adrenaline auto-injector (if prescribed) and an up-to-date emergency action plan that contains contact details and clear instructions on when to administer your child’s medications (and the correct dose) should an allergic reaction occur.
Talk to your child and remind him about some simple ways he can manage his food allergy while on camp — for example, avoiding sharing food and drinks, washing hands before eating (if possible), always checking with staff that the meal doesn’t contain the problem food before eating.
Also remind your child that if he can’t be sure that the food is safe, he shouldn’t eat it, and to always get help immediately if he feels unwell — he shouldn’t ‘wait and see’.