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A Family's Life With Food Allergies

Food allergies. The term is easy to say, but it evokes different responses depending on your situation and experiences. For some an allergy means nausea or skin rashes. To others, it means whole body hives, throat tightness or other breathing problems.

To mom Kari Keaton, who facilitates the 209-family Metro DC Food Allergy Support Group on Yahoo, monitoring her children's food allergies has become a full-time job. "There are so many extras I need to do for my kids, that I need to check out and make sure they are safe. It requires all my time," Keaton says.

A government report released earlier this week shows that managing food allergies is becoming a job for more parents than ever.

Four percent of kids under the age of 18 -- or about 3 million children -- were reported to have had a food or digestive allergy in the previous year, according to an analysis of the National Health Interview Survey, a sampling of about 9,500 children in 2007. That's an 18 percent jump in food allergies between 1997 and 2007.

In addition, children with food allergies are two to four times as likely to experience other types of allergic conditions such as asthma, excema and respiratory allergies than children without food allergies, the report says. "This is of great importance as children with coexisting food allergy and asthma may be more likely to experience anaphylactic reactions to foods and be at higher risk of death," write the report's co-authors Amy M. Branum and Susan L. Lukacs.

Keaton is no stranger to food allergies. Her 16-year-old son's first food allergy -- to peanuts -- was discovered when he was 15 months old. He licked a peanut butter sandwich and his face broke out in hives. Keeping the family allergen-free wasn't too difficult back then, Keaton says. She and her husband simply decided to remove nuts from their house and cooking.

Family life became trickier, though, when the Keatons' next children came along -- twins who are now 10. Like his brother, one of the twins also has food allergies. But the two boys aren't allergic to the same foods. Even mom Kari has to dig through food groups in her mind to list everything her boys can't eat. For 16-year-old Daniel, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, peas, lentils and chick peas are off the table. Ten-year-old Jeremy, meanwhile, avoids milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, barley, bananas, kiwi, avocado, peas, lentils, chick peas and carrots.

Avoidance doesn't just mean not eating these foods. Even touching them can cause a reaction. And that's turned Keaton into a short-order cook. If she tried to cook meals everyone could eat, they wouldn't all be healthy enough, Keaton says. Plus, "we would have gone broke buying alternative food," she says, later noting that four wheat-free rolls for Jeremy cost $5. Cooking means washing hands "9 million times touching different ingredients. ... I have to worry about surfaces and what's been where. Did I use the bread knife on the wheat-free rolls before the wheat rolls?" Keaton says she has a complete awareness whenever she's cooking of who the food is for and Jeremy has his own pantry in the house. Grocery shopping means trips that are "10 times as long as everyone else" because Keaton has to read labels all the time, even on products she's used to buying, because ingredients or production circumstances could change. She also buys a lot of foods online at such sites as Ener-G.com, AllergyGrocer, and Glutenfree.com.

As if making meals at home isn't difficult enough, kids with allergies are still kids. That means schools, birthday parties, field trips, sports ... all the usual activities, many of which revolve around food. Spontaneity just won't work in a family with food allergies, Keaton says, since safety revolves around planning. That means no calling from a friend's house to ask to spend the night, for instance.

Each school year means setting up meetings with the school to plan accommodations for each child. First, there's the basic medicine protocol: when the school should use basic medicines such as Benadryl and EpiPens and how. Then, there's the lunchroom situation. Each parent needs to decide what he considers safe for an allergenic child -- and that differs with each child's allergies and their age. For instance, Keaton and her husband felt that for Daniel it was safe for him to sit at the regular elementary school class's table with no one next to him or diagonal from him with nut products. He would put a mat underneath his lunch so no food actually touched the table and he wouldn't wipe the table like other kids. Brother Jeremy, though, was able to avoid the issue for a year by going to half-day kindergarten. In first grade, he ate in the nurse's station with one friend for 3/4 of the year before the school set up a flat desk next to -- but not touching -- his class's table in the cafeteria.

Finally, there's food in the classroom. Parents need to work with teachers and other parents about any food used as learning tools or for art projects such as M&Ms and any food coming into the classroom for snacks and parties.

As for eating out, that's a difficult prospect for people with severe food allergies. The Keaton family's first foray into having someone else prepare their meals came in January at Disney World. "They make a claim they can feed anybody and they will accommodate any dietary request, and they do," Keaton said, adding that Jeremy had a fabulous experience eating 15 meals there prepared completely by somebody else. Since the Disney experiment, the Keaton family found one restaurant locally in which the chef understood the cross-contamination issues and was able to cook for Jeremy. Still, "the possibilities for accidental ingestion are so scary, it's easiest to eat at home," Keaton says.

Overall, Keaton has seen a huge shift in schools' and restaurants' understanding of food allergy issues. When Daniel started school, "you had to convince them of the seriousness. The majority had never heard of food allergies," she says. "Now, there’s not someone in a public school who hasn’t known someone with allergies."

How have allergies affected the practical areas of your families? How do you feel about accommodating your kids' classmates who have allergies?

Coming later next week: The emotional side of food allergies

By Stacey Garfinkle |  October 24, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Health
Previous: 'No Candy Here'; I'm a Sex Offender | Next: A Food Plan for Preschoolers

Comments


Did you interview the Keaton dad? I'm sick of the mother already...and there's more stuff next week.

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 24, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Was I just totally oblivious as a child or something? When I was a kid, no more than 11 years ago, it was the RARE child who had allergies, and usually it was only one thing, like bees. There was no special prep of foods, no segregating tables into nut vs. no nut, no crazy accommodations, and we al seem to have survived just fine.

So what is going on now? How are all of these children so deathly allergic to peanuts that being in the same room as a product produced in a plant that also produced peanut products will cause his/her throat to close up & develop hives? Were our parents endangering our lives a mere 15 years ago, or are kids today so thoroughly coddled and overprotected that they aren’t able to develop the strong immune systems or defenses?

Is there something I’m just not understanding here??

Posted by: falltillfly | October 24, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

The allergic one in this household is actually me and not the children. I had no food allergies whatsoever as a child. I suspect I started becoming allergic several years ago to milk. I first noticed issues when I came back from several trips down to Central America where I ate no dairy for 2 weeks. When I came back, every time I ate dairy, I became sick. I chalked it up to not having dairy products for several weeks as opposed to an allergy because it eventually went away.

Fast forward to 6 months ago when I realized I truly was allergic to yogurt. I still didn't realize it was a dairy issue and was thinking it was the live culture. Then a month ago... cottage cheese was banished from my diet and now milk and hot chocolate mixes in the last week.

I just spoke to my mom recently and discovered that she has been going through the same thing at 60 that I am going through at 40. She can't eat any dairy: milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter, margarine... anything with even a bit of lactose (including her osteoporosis medication) makes her sick to her stomach.

It never would have dawned on me that you would come up with a food allergy later in life. And it certainly wouldn't have occurred to me that you would end up with allergies as severe as my Mom's. I am still eating some dairy products but I suspect that they will eventually exit my diet given the gradual progression I am already seeing.

I can understand how touching a food can make you break out and why parents are that sensitive to the contact their children have with food. I am so allergic to penicillin that touching it repeatedly (ie. giving a pill to a pet or a child over a course of antibiotics) will put me in the hospital with an allergic reaction. There are actually warnings on all of my pets medical forms that I am allergic to penicillin and its derivatives and they can't prescribe any medication that contains penicillin. Wouldn't that sound bizarre if you didn't already know I had been put in the hospital for that very reason already in my life? Allergies can be serious business so these parents are not necessarily crazy protective but doing what they have to do.

Posted by: Billie_R | October 24, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

falltillfly, I'm with you. I'm a bit older than you, but I can't recall any kids who had food allergies when I was growing up. I knew a couple who were diabetics and had to watch their diets for that, but I didn't know of any who had peanut allergies or anything. In my kids daycare (they are done with it now), there were sheets on the tables in each room of all the allergies, and at least half the kids were allergic to something or other.

Does anyone know why food allergies are so much more common today? My theory is that parents are so much more obsessive about what babies eat and they aren't exposed to allergens, so they don't build up the resistance to them. I've seen studies that say this is why asthma is more widespread.

The recommendations are not to feed babies peanuts until a year or whatever in case they are allergic. But couldn't that be backwards and maybe they develop the allergy because they don't eat peanuts until later?

Posted by: dennis5 | October 24, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

falltillfly - there are a bunch of theories out there, many of which I'm sure you've heard of, none of which have (at least to me, the layperson) been shown conclusive. There's the "clean environment" theory, that we've scrubbed our kids' spaces so much that their bodies don't naturally produce antibodies in response to strain. There's the vaccine theory, in which the multiple different vaccines suppress something in the immune system that governs food allergies. There's the "numbers" theory, that there really aren't more food allergies but reporting and information is shared far more than it used to be.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that agriculture has something to do with it. We've modified our environment and food supply greatly in the past 20 years. Eggs, meat, corn, who's to say peanuts aren't part of it?

Anyway, I'd be willing to bet the answer is some amount of everything.

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | October 24, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

And to be clear, I'm not downplaying the seriousness of these allergies. I just don't understand what's changed in the last 10-20 years that's caused them to become so much more common.

Posted by: dennis5 | October 24, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: falltillfly | October 24, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I don't think anyone knows the real cause, but I have some ideas. 50 years ago, kids with severe allergies died from them. So if there is a genetic component, then the side effect of saving kids' lives is that they have a chance to pass down that bad gene. I also suspect changes in our lifestyle and environment are having unanticipated side effects (e.g., the "hygiene" theory). Plus, 50 years ago, there were probably a number of folks who didn't have the lifethreatening variety, but who just suffered with eczema, digestive complaints, etc., without ever knowing why.

jezebel3, why the hating? I thought it was a realistic view of what life really feels like when you have to deal with these issues every day. Do you think it's a ginned-up diagnosis? That she's overreacting? What?

To disclose my own bias: I was one of those kids with deathly allergies and asthma (not food allergies -- animals and cigarettes). This was back before epi pens, etc., so avoidance was the only defense (well, that and knowing the fastest route to the closest hospital). And smoking was EVERYWHERE back then (late 60s-early 70s), so avoidance was hugely difficult -- I couldn't go to restaurants, offices, friends' houses, even grocery stores. I appreciated the article for giving me more insight into what my mom's daily life was like. Now that smoking's banned most everywhere, I tend to forget how omnipresent it was 40 years ago, how tough it must have been for her.

But mostly I appreciate the article because it reminds me how little things have changed. 40 years ago, most people pooh-pooed the whole thing, told my mom she was overreacting and I just needed to "toughen up," accused her of being too strident, etc. After all, cigarettes are good for you, so what's the problem? When they were kids, they'd never heard of kids dying from just sitting in a room where a dog had been. And because they couldn't explain it, they instinctively rejected it -- it was as though my physical problem was a moral failing, as if I'd be fine if she just didn't make such a big deal out of it. Which pretty much lasted until my eyes and throat swelled shut, I turned blue in front of them, and we sprinted to the hospital. Funny how nowadays no one doubts me about the cigarettes any more -- now we've moved on to "I can't believe just smelling a peanut can do that to someone."

Probably the only good thing that came out of the whole situation is that four relatives quit smoking so they could see me, because my mom was willing to draw that line (she flat-out refused to marry my stepdad until he quit). Years later, my Granny later got a spot on her lung that they were able to fix; she still says my allergies saved her life.

Posted by: laura33 | October 24, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The trigger for food allergies works like this: the body is exposed to whatever substance it is (peanut allergen, gluten, egg, etc.) and is fine until some tipping point where the body produces an immune response. (Disclosure: one of my kids has a peanut allergy, so my information is distilled from talking to the allergist and reading and passing it through my awful memory.) What we are seeing are more instances of kids reacting at younger ages or lower levels, and incidence of more serious reactions.

The reason to not give peanuts to kids under the age of 2 is based on the idea that infants and toddlers immune systems are naturally more sensitive than that of older children.

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | October 24, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Billie R --

Actually, what you are describing with dairy is not an allergy, but an intolerance -- they are different. Intolerances make you sick to your stomach, allergies give you an anaphylactic reaction (like with penicillin). Lactose intolerance is extremely common; for a lot of people (including my mom), their bodies lose the ability to make the enzyme that digests lactose over time. There are many ways to manage that -- you can take the enzyme separately, you can buy lactose-free products, etc.

Posted by: laura33 | October 24, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I forgot an important part: the peanut allergen passes through the mother-baby barrier, so expectant mothers that eat peanut butter are in fact exposing their baby to the peanut allergen. (This is not to cause a panic - no such recommendation has been made for pregnant women to avoid eating PB. Just stop smokin', drinkin', and carryin' on.)

But this explained for us, at least, why our son ate PB on a cracker at age 2 and immediately got hives. He apparently has a lower floor for tolerating peanuts, or maybe since PB was the ONLY thing my nauseated wife could keep down when she was pregnant, and then again after we had him (it passes into milk also) that we simply ran right through his tolerance level.

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | October 24, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

While my family, luckily, has no food allergies, we have had to deal with allergy free foods because of my son's school. I've done a bit of reading on the subject because of that.

The most interesting theory that I've come across, and one that makes a lot of sense given the huge increase in the number of children with life threatening allergies is this... We are now subjected to a hugely increased number of environmental toxins compared to people even a generation ago. There are a number of items that stand out, that combined may be causing the problem:

- There are so many shots administered to children, all at once, that their immune systems could be overwhelmed.

- Children are exposed to many plastics that we weren't as children, almost all of which leach foreign substances. Starting with bottles and sippy cups, and later food microwaved in plastic containers, bottled water that is stored in plastic, plastic dust in the air from vinyl shades, siding, windows, carpets and other household products... it is everywhere and hard to avoid.

- Harmful chemicals in our foods also probably have an impact. Not only are the vegetables we eat covered with pesticides and herbicides, but our meat is injected with hormones, antibiotics, and other substances. And when we buy prepared food we eat huge numbers of different preservatives, food colorings and other additives with unknown (and sometimes known!) harmful effects.

Combined all of these may just be overwhelming young children's immune systems, causing allergies to develop.

Posted by: JMR2 | October 24, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

While volunteering at my daughter's school last week, I was saddened to hear that a 6th grader had died earlier this month as a result of his peanut allergy. He had apparently put something with peanuts in his mouth and spit it out, but it was too late. I can't imagine the pain the parents are going through, especially with the holiday season coming up.

My daughter's previous school was nut free. While that took some extra doing to make sure she brought nothing with peanuts (including foods that were made or packaged in the same plant as peanut products), I understand why schools do this. I wish those with severe allergies could get a shot to prevent severe reaction in case in ingestion. I know there are shots for environmental allergies. Also, there is that pen device to use in case of the severe reaction. I don't know if the little boy who died had access to such a device.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 24, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

i have an odd nut allergy for you. my brother is allergic to peanuts. can't have any kind; the EXCEPTios are peanut butter and peanut m&ms. he is also allergic to fish, but can eat shellfish, shrimp and prawns. he's been this way ever since child hoo.

wierd huh?

Posted by: nall92 | October 24, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

my daughter thankfully does not have any allergies and i'm hoping the same for the little one we have on the way. i can't say i am taking any precautions, i love peanut butter and peanuts and eat them on an almost daily basis...did the same with my daughter and she was fine. we do, however, have a nephew with severe food allergies. even if we drink milk or eat yoghurt and kiss him or touch him without thoroughly washing our hands and mouths, he will get hives. it's amazing, and so sad too!
while i sympathize with parents of kids with allergies and understand their concerns, i think sometimes they go too far. in an environment, like school, where there are allergic AND non-allergic kids, it is the allergic kid's parents that are responsible for teaching the child to be careful (as well as some basic precautions for the teachers and classroom). there was a story where a mom with an allergic kid wanted everyone in the class to brush there teeth after snack or lunchtime in case they might touch her child...that is just going too far!
having a child with allergies is tough, i'm sure. but the whole world can't cater to them if just because of their allergies.

Posted by: sp1103sd | October 24, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

My son is extremely allergic to cashew nuts, most likely because of the above-average amount of cashew nuts I ate when breast feeding him. And get this: he wasnt allergic to fish and peanuts the first time we gave it to him (over age 1) but he definitely was the next time. I regret not waiting longer.

Posted by: rahelamma | October 24, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

my daughter is allergic to all things peanut, soy, legumes, some fruits and veggies, and some grains. it's difficult because trying to keep her healthy is going to cost me a lot more money. for now, she eats lunch for free at school, but i've learned that schools really don't care if they have an allergic child until that child dies and they get sued. i've dealt with principals, teachers, cafeteria workers, but still they refuse to provide safe alternatives. i know what the law states and i know what our rights are, but i'm tired of fighting. i'm giving up the battle, and i'm just going to try to eke out of my extremely tight budget ways to provide her lunch from home.

Posted by: fantasyjoker | October 24, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

i'm still not understanding how eating a certain food while pregnant can cause your child to have allergies once he is born. can you explain this to me? if you eat too much rice, or drink too much milk, or eat too many eggs....will your kid develop allergies to those things? it just doesn't make sense to me.

Posted by: sp1103sd | October 24, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I have a nephew with the worst food allergies I have ever heard of. I believe he test positive to everything except white grape. He had been on a G-tube since he was about 1. He is five now, healthy and active, but still can't eat food.

The disease is eosinophilic esophagitis
http://www.apfed.org/ee.htm

Posted by: rubytuesday | October 24, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Regarding peanut allergies - I recently read that peanuts are one of the most genetically modified foods in the US diet. There is a theory that when pregnant women (and I am 3 months pregnant) eat a lot of peanuts & peanut products. the genetic changes in the plant are actually setting our children up to have peanut allergies. The article I read recommended that pregnant women switch to almond butter or organic peanut butter, to reduce exposure. I'm pretty sure I read this in some pregnancy magazine, and I don't know if it's true. But it was worth buying a new jar of organic peanut butter just in case.

Posted by: JHBVA | October 24, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I also second the person who noted the difference between a food allergy and a food senstivity. Many people have some sort of sensitivity - a minor rash, localized hives, digestive issues. According to my allergist, none of these qualify as a food allergy. Yes, you can treat some of those symptoms with benadryl. But unless the food causes a systemic rash, or respiratory distress, it is not considered an allergy.

I think a big difference between when we were kids and today's kids is the parents response to these sensitivities. Instead of saying "my kid has a sensitive stomach, and dairy makes it worse", mom says her kid is allergic to milk. It is probably easier for teachers, friends parents, etc. to remember if you call it an allergy, and keeps your kid safer and more comfortable. Which is not to say that some kids aren't genuinely allergic to milk. But dairy allergies in are very often outgrown in childhood (egg allergies too), so the odds of a 12 year old, or 16 year old, being genuinely allergic to dairy products is much slimmer than the odds of being sensitive to such foods.

Posted by: JHBVA | October 24, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

To JHBVA:
ok, so thats a new one to me: what is the difference between a food sensitivity and a food allergy?

Posted by: rahelamma | October 24, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

To sp1103sd:
Its not just you. I've realized that no one including the specialists knows much about the how and whys of food allergies. I operate from experience and hearsay more than anything else. Our pediatrician misdiagnosed my 6 month old's food allergies that resulted in his vomiting several times a day. The poor baby did not grow (height and weight) from his 6th to 9th month. Even when it was clear that he had food allergies, his pediatrician refused to accept vomiting as a symptom.

Posted by: rahelamma | October 24, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

To JHBVA:
ok, so thats a new one to me: what is the difference between a food sensitivity and a food allergy?

As in I know about lactose intolerance and the like, but the symptoms you write about are the same as allergy sypmtoms... so how would one know its not an allergic reaction short of testing?

Posted by: rahelamma | October 24, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

an allergy is something that is a response by the immune system period. if your immune system is not involved it's not an allergy. some people use the term allergy when what they mean is intolerance & vice versa. celiacs is not an allergy.

remember the post several months ago about food dyes & behavior & all the people who posted that there is no link between them?

i had a mild peanut allergy when i was a kid. i have since outgrown it but i was careful with my son to see if he had inherited it. i am allergic to cats which is an allergy i developed but my dad was allergic to cats so there is a predisposition in my family.

Posted by: quark2 | October 24, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

the nephew i spoke of before with the severe food allergies is allergic to dairy, nuts, eggs, wheat, and gluten. his diet consists of alot of processed food and tons of soy milk and soy products. i've heard that too much soy is not good for boys, as there is too much estrogen in it. has anyone heard this? also, i was amazed when his mother told me while visiting that they buy highly processed foods like hot dogs and other snacks because they know they are "safe" because of all the artificial colors and flavors. she said the "natural" stuff was the most dangerous. i'm wondering if anyone with a child with severe allergies subscribes by the same thought process......the kid is seriously hyper and sugared up all the time from all the crap food, can't imagine that's healthy at all!

Posted by: sp1103sd | October 24, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

My son is allergic to tree nuts, such that we have epi pens wherever he goes. I have found that people are very willing to accommodate his need for no nuts, but we do have to explain at least weekly what this means -- he cannot have any nuts EXCEPT peanuts. Peanuts are legumes, tubers, whatever you want to call them. They are not nuts. I've found there's a lot of confusion over that, plus we get the occasional question about "can he do a craft with sunflower seeds" and stuff like that. I don't blame anyone, because I certainly hadn't thought about this stuff before we discovered his allergy.

The absolute best thing we've done is to make him aware and responsible for checking with everyone on everything as to whether it contains nuts. He is very diligent about asking people who give him food. I mean, it's actually overkill, because he'll sometimes ask me if the glass of milk I'm giving him has nuts! But we just smile and say "good job for asking" and reassure him "no nuts".

I wish I knew why he has the allergy, but the why doesn't matter. It's what we do and he does to protect him.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 24, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

i've heard that too much soy is not good for boys, as there is too much estrogen in it. has anyone heard this?

Posted by: sp1103sd | October 24, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I've heard that too much soy can cause excessive flatulence.

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 24, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

sp1103sd,

this may be scary: recently heard about a family where the first child was allergic/intolerant of milk and so it was soy for everyone all the time. The second child then had a soy allergy. The 3rd has a bunch of other allergies... could it be a genetic predisposition that kicks in? No one in my family has allergies. My husband has a shell fish allergy and pollen allergies. As I've posted, my younger son has a lot of food allergies.

Posted by: rahelamma | October 24, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Great discussion today, everyone. Here's the FDA's definition of food allergy versus food intolerance:

"A food allergy, or hypersensitivity, is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the immune system. While many people often have gas, bloating or another unpleasant reaction to something they eat, this is not an allergic response. Such a reaction is thought to not involve the immune system and is called "food intolerance."

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | October 24, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Food allergies are on the rise because parents are being more obsessive about what their children eat? Really? My son was diagnosed with a likely peanut allergy at 4 MONTHS of age (via a RAST blood test). I was exclusively breastfeeding at the time. So yes, I was obsessive about what my baby ate by doing the best thing medical science knows I could do for him (and that was breastfeed). He was also diagnosed with food protein intolerance colitis (translate: intolerance to dairy). All of this was caused by what he was exposed to through my diet (I now eliminate those items from my diet and he is fine). Would my son have been similarly diagnosed if he was born 30 years ago but had the same symptoms? Probably not. He probably would have been considered simply a "sickly" child. So please stop blaming the parents without considering that there is a scientific basis for the increase in food allergies and or that detection of food allergies has increased due to changes in our medical system.

Posted by: iansmom1 | October 24, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

iansmom1,

I agree... I was doing what I thought was best for my baby - it was a lot of trouble to breastfeed (office mom)... but who knows? If he had gone on formula, may be he would have developed a milk allergy? It didnt happen with breast milk but again, one never knows. I wish there was more research into the whys. Unless we know why, we cant prevent it from happening. And it would help with treatment...

Posted by: rahelamma | October 24, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Do not suggest that parents feed babies peanuts before physicians recommend (e.g.,

Posted by: iansmom1 | October 24, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

sorry my post got cut off. I was goign to say do not suggest that parents feed babies peanuts before physicians recommend (e.g.,

Posted by: iansmom1 | October 24, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

dennis5 -

Both of my children showed symptoms of food allergy from birth. We have seen numerous specialists at the best children's hospital in the southeast and at the state's largest teaching hospital. Not one of them thought it was anything other than bad genes, as it were. All of the doctors commended exclusive breastfeeding as the best choice I could be making. At least with breastmilk you can control the ingredients. With formula, which sucks anyway, you never know what's actually in it.

When you have a child with food allergies, you DO have to control every bite that goes in their mouths, at least until they are able to do that for themselves. Allergy doesn't come from hypercontrolling parents. I wish we did understand fully what does cause it, so it could be cured.

Poor kid with the processed food. Sounds like the parents are too busy or lazy to cook for him. That takes effort at first but once you get in the habit it's second nature.

Posted by: jaxom | October 24, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Poor kid with the processed food. Sounds like the parents are too busy or lazy to cook for him. That takes effort at first but once you get in the habit it's second nature.

Posted by: jaxom | October 24, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

What time will you be picking up your robes & gavel?

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 24, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

For those of you asking what used to happen with kids with food allergies back in the day, my sister had many food allergies as a kid, she's in her mid-30's now, she and my mom did a lot of the same things you see today. They talked to the teacher about stuff she couldn't eat and she knew not to share food at lunch. But, she was a kid. She ate the things she was allergic to, especially when they were brought into the classroom for birthday and holiday treats, or at parties or friends' houses. She would come home sick when she had a reaction.

I think the severity of the allergies is what's so different today. Sure, my sister would feel sick as a dog when she ate a little chocolate, but she wouldn't die. My mom didn't have nearly the fear these parents do today because my sister's allergies weren't fatal. She also didn't have to ask for things like a chocolate-free cafeteria for the same reason. That's not the case now. I sure wouldn't want my son's pb&j to be the reason another child dies.

Posted by: sjneal | October 24, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I think that one of the challenging things about food allergies is that there are no black and white answers, either regarding what causes allergies or the best way to manage them.

My son has multiple food allergies. He is allergic to many nuts- his highest scores are to nuts I hate so never ate when I was pregnant or breast feeding. I did eat almonds (which are techincally not tree nuts) and lots of soy and he's not allergic to either of those. We do come from a family with enviornmental allergies on both sides and my mother developed food allergies in her sixties. So, I don't think that people should blame themselves because their children have food allergies. I think that it's likely a complex mix of genetics and enviornment that triggers them and it's not as simple or direct as just eating peanuts.

WorkingMomX, you said it so well, the why doesn't matter, we just do what we need to to protect our kids.

Posted by: elsee | October 24, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I have a strange...allergy, I guess. I've been vegetarian for almost 12 years, but during my recent marathon training, I've had to eat more protein, so I've eaten a little meat over the past four months. I have developed some kind of sensitivity to turkey...only turkey, not chicken (I haven't eaten any other kind of fowl, so I don't know if duck or goose does anything to me). It gives me an irritating rash all over my body, but has no other side effects. It's not tryptophan--that's an essential amino acid present in the body, and it's prevalent in milk, too, which does nothing to me. I'm guessing it has something to do with lack of exposure over the 12 years, because I never had any problems with it before I became vegetarian. My solution is to avoid it. I'm not eating meat anymore, so it's not a problem.

Posted by: Monagatuna | October 24, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

monagatuna, you might be allergic or sensitive to tryptaphane (not sure of the spelling) which is present in turkey but not in chicken.
i have a friend whose entire family has problems digesting tryptaphane & her husband used to tell me that about 20 minutes to half an hour after the first bite of turkey at thanksgiving they'd all be cracking off big ones.

Posted by: quark2 | October 24, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

One way to help a child develop fewer allergies is to use the allergy rotation diet (see Amazon) where they don't eat the same food more than once in a 4-5 day period. The allergy elimination diet is a way to figure out the food you're allergic to. You start out eating only a few foods and add a new food each day to see if you're allergic to it (this is an over-simplified explanation).

When I was a child in the 60's, people just weren't that knowledgeable about allergies. My head was always stopped up and sometimes my energy was just wiped out like I had the flu. I felt terrible much of the time, but I didn't know that wasn't normal. I had a terrible time getting up in the morning - like I was coming out of a coma. I would sleep through my first class at school. I was always having to go to the doctor and take antibiotics.

When I was 25 and living in a large city with specialists, I was finally diagnosed with being allergic to wheat, dust, grass, ragweed, chemicals, etc. My quality of life improved drastically when I cut the wheat out and covered my pillow and bed with plastic. In my 40's, I became allergic to milk. It gave me more congestion and a headache.

Antihistamines don't help much. I've tried shots which helped a little, although my father had a lot of success with shots. Different doctors had different approaches. It's not clear-cut. There's a lot of trial and error involved in finding out what you're allergic to and how to treat it.

Posted by: abcd51 | October 24, 2008 8:55 PM | Report abuse

So many great comments!

To the parents of children without food allergies who are working with the school's to keep our kids safe, thank you. To those non-FA parents who seek out information, bless you.

To those who wonder about the severity of food allergies, there is such a thing. You can have imune system responses that cause hives or stomach upset but are not anaphylaxic reaction.

When more than one body system is involved (gastric, respiritory, cardiovasculary, skin or other (feeling of impending doom, uterine cramps etc)then it is concidered anaphylaxic.

Some are at a higher risk of having an anaphylaxic reaction than others. Those with asthma or heart condition which take beta blockers (which interact with the medication used to counteract anaphylaxic reactions)

For more information about food allergies here are two great websites:
http://www.foodallergy.org/ (USA)
http://www.allergysafecommunities.ca/pages/default.asp?catid=11 (Canada)

To the questions: Why it is more common now or what might cause food allergies? Scientists are looking into this right now. Here is an excerpt of an article about this very question:
http://www.allergicliving.com/features.asp?copy_id=186

To the editor, your publication either attracts a high class of readers or you are working hard to weed out the flammers because I am not seeing the acidic comments most online articles garner.

Posted by: _Susan_ | October 25, 2008 7:12 AM | Report abuse

I think the theory we are most comfortable with is this: we as a society are cleaner and cleaner every generation. The proliferation of "antibacterial" products continues to kill "bugs" and make "superbugs" at the same time. Add to that the vaccines that we get that most countries don't. Put it all together, we have one super-strong immune system and hardly anything to fight. So the body starts to look at food cross-eyed and considers it a threat. So it's not that we are more hyper-neurotic and are taking food allergies more seriously than they need to be. It's just that with each generation, more kids are born that have them. Case in point, my family: my grandmother was allergic to dust and that was it. My father's generation has dust and one environmental (an animal or perhaps weeds or something). My generation has dust, and several other environmental allergies (animals, pollen, weeds, trees, grasses, etc.). My children's generation (my kids and my cousins' kids) all have at least one food allergy PLUS gobs of environmental allergies.

If your family is lucky enough to have escaped this trend, count your blessings. But don't judge the families who have to grapple with runs to the ER, painful epinephrine injections, and the very real emotions associated with your child clutching his or her throat and struggling to breath.

Posted by: trezvani | October 28, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I think the theory we are most comfortable with is this: we as a society are cleaner and cleaner every generation. The proliferation of "antibacterial" products continues to kill "bugs" and make "superbugs" at the same time. Add to that the vaccines that we get that most countries don't. Put it all together, we have one super-strong immune system and hardly anything to fight. So the body starts to look at food cross-eyed and considers it a threat. So it's not that we are more hyper-neurotic and are taking food allergies more seriously than they need to be. It's just that with each generation, more kids are born that have them. Case in point, my family: my grandmother was allergic to dust and that was it. My father's generation has dust and one environmental (an animal or perhaps weeds or something). My generation has dust, and several other environmental allergies (animals, pollen, weeds, trees, grasses, etc.). My children's generation (my kids and my cousins' kids) all have at least one food allergy PLUS gobs of environmental allergies.

If your family is lucky enough to have escaped this trend, count your blessings. But don't judge the families who have to grapple with runs to the ER, painful epinephrine injections, and the very real emotions associated with your child clutching his or her throat and struggling to breath.

Posted by: trezvani | October 28, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse


I think the theory we are most comfortable with is this: we as a society are cleaner and cleaner every generation. The proliferation of "antibacterial" products continues to kill "bugs" and make "superbugs" at the same time. Add to that the vaccines that we get that most countries don't. Put it all together, we have one super-strong immune system and hardly anything to fight. So the body starts to look at food cross-eyed and considers it a threat. So it's not that we are more hyper-neurotic and are taking food allergies more seriously than they need to be. It's just that with each generation, more kids are born that have them. Case in point, my family: my grandmother was allergic to dust and that was it. My father's generation has dust and one environmental (an animal or perhaps weeds or something). My generation has dust, and several other environmental allergies (animals, pollen, weeds, trees, grasses, etc.). My childrens generation (my kids and my cousins' kids) all have at least one food allergy PLUS gobs of environmental allergies.

If your family is lucky enough to have escaped this trend, count your blessings. But don't judge the families who have to grapple with runs to the ER, painful epinephrine injections, and the very real emotions associated with your child clutching his or her throat and struggling to breath.

Posted by: trezvani | October 28, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

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