The Rise in Food Allergies: What Parents Need to Know

As a parent, you’ve likely heard someone from an older generation claim that they fed their children everything, and there were no problems. Unfortunately, the world has changed, and so has the way our bodies react to it. 

Food allergies are a serious issue that can be scary for parents, and they’re on the rise. Here’s what you need to know as a parent when facing this serious issue.

Why Food Allergies Are on the Rise

If you’ve heard the claim from older generations about the lack of food allergies, know that they aren’t entirely wrong. Food allergies used to be quite rare and are now becoming more prevalent by the day. This uptick in food allergies leads to one compelling question: why?

One theory is that we’re cleaner than we used to be. Bear in mind that this is ultimately a good thing when it comes to the big picture of disease prevention and longevity. However, it also means that we come in contact with fewer varieties of bacteria and contaminants than our predecessors. Brief contact with germs and illness builds a child’s immune system, making them less susceptible to various allergens. 

Some research shows that larger families are less prone to allergies with the logic that there’s more “cross-contamination” as each child goes about their day and brings things home on their body. There’s also evidence that children who own pets from a young age are less likely to develop animal-related allergies as they get older.

Another thing to consider is the shift toward self-diagnosis. It’s estimated that there are four times as many self-reported allergies than confirmed diagnoses. The term “allergy” often gets used when there’s a sensitivity or other underlying issue. 

The Top Food Allergies

The FDA has listed over 160 potential food allergens. However, 90% of food allergies are related to the top eight offenders, which includes:

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish 
  4. Crustacean shellfish
  5. Tree nuts 
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans

According to the FDA mandate, food companies are required to label their products accordingly if it potentially came in contact with one of these eight allergens. 

How to Curb Food Allergies

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The recommendations for curbing food allergies change intermittently. It’s crucial for parents to stay abreast of these updates with each child. It was once recommended that babies don’t come in contact with allergens until they’re two years old. The new food allergy guidelines recommend early contact with infants as young as four months old.

Research is constantly uncovering new information. Stay informed and up-to-date on how to curb allergies in your children.

Symptoms to Watch For

When you try an allergen with your child, be sure to watch out for the following symptoms:

  1. Hives
  2. Rash
  3. Difficulty breathing
  4. Stomach pain
  5. Vomiting
  6. Diarrhea
  7. Dizziness
  8. Eye redness

Allergies tend to get more severe with each point of contact and could be mostly symptomless during the first few exposures. Be mindful of anything that seems a little different with your child after they come in contact with an allergen.

Managing Food Allergies and School

Communication is the most important aspect of managing food allergies in children attending school. Ensure the office and the teacher knows about the allergy, the severity (i.e., if contact, consumption, or vapors will trigger a reaction), the symptoms to watch for, and what to do if your child has a reaction.

It’s equally important to educate your child and teach them to speak up for themselves. It can be hard for a child to turn down treats or snacks from friends. However, conveying the seriousness of their allergy is essential when teaching them to advocate for their health.

At the end of the day, you can only do what’s best for your child. Stay up to date on the latest recommendations and do what you can to keep them safe.