Coping with Food Allergies in Children

Introduction
Food allergies have become prevalent in children, making them to be sick and in some cases, taking their lives. As a parent of a child with food allergies, I have seen first-hand the difficulties that children and parents go through on a daily basis. This article will discuss the foods that children are allergic to, symptoms of food allergies, parents’ dilemma and coping strategies for both parents and children.
I do not hold a medical degree nor am I a healthcare worker, but I have chosen to write on this topic as a parent of a child who has struggled with food allergies for the past 13 years. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) estimates that 1 in 13 children in the United States has a food allergy. It is my belief that this article will help parents who are new in the food allergy business of their children to look out for symptoms of food allergies and for them to know that there is help and hope for them and their children. It is also my hope that this article will help them to choose to have food allergy test before opting for medications. I hope that my personal story will motivate them to be strong on this journey and for them to know that they are not alone on this food allergy journey with their children. I have been there, done that and I am still standing. It is my belief that the high number of children who are suffering from food allergies and yet are being medicated for the symptoms of food allergies would be reduced if their parents are educated on the dangers of food allergies and provided with resources and coping strategies.teamfareheader2015final

My Food Allergy Journey
My food allergy journey started 13 years ago, one month after my son was born, but the doctor did not diagnose him with food allergies until he was two and a half years old. Yes, it took that long for a doctor to diagnose that he had food allergies. Yes, my son took a lot of medications, including some steroids to treat the symptoms of food allergies. Yes, my son’s food allergies continued because he was unknowingly eating foods that cause allergies. Yes, his pediatrician was a seasoned pediatrician, but yet did not “think” about food allergies while he was treating my son of symptoms of food allergies that include rashes, eczema and itching for more than two years. This was very odd that he did not think about food allergies especially since Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE, 2015) stated that “Children with atopic dermatitis (often called eczema), have a higher risk for developing food allergies.” Yes, my son was also on antibiotics almost every three weeks because he had infection from itching, scratching and bleeding all over his body. He lost weight. Yes, my son went to three different dermatologists and yes, my son used over 20 creams and lotions on his skin. Three weeks after my son was born, he started itching badly and breaking out with rashes. The doctor diagnosed him with eczema and two drugs were prescribed. Soon, another drug was added to the list, meaning that my little boy was on three medications daily. Two drugs were to help calm his skin, and another was to help him sleep, since one of the drugs made him not to sleep. But yet, my son was still not sleeping and he was still itching very badly.
As a parent, I spent many sleepless nights carrying and soothing my son as he itches very badly and scratching and bleeding. My husband and I took turns to watch him just so that one of us could sleep and be able to go to work the next day. I spent almost $200 every month buying his drugs and ointment/creams prescribed by the dermatologists. As parents, we were very exhausted, helpless and confused, so, we decided to take matters into our hands, we changed his pediatrician. This was the big move that led to my son’s relief and healing. It was the big move that helped to give us back our sleep and put money back into our pocket. This was the big move that admitted us to the school of food allergies where we learned a lot about the powerful effects of food in our body.
This new pediatrician tested my son for food allergies and he was diagnosed to be highly allergic to milk, eggs, fish, soy and nuts. The doctor advised that I take him off all the foods that he was eating and to work with the dietician in her office to figure out how to feed him. We started by feeding him with only one type of food like macaroni and ground beef (for protein) for two weeks. Surprisingly just after a few days and not being on any drugs, my son stopped itching and scratching, was able to sleep well. In one month, eczema was gone and he gained 8 pounds, and also did not need antibiotics. It was like a different world for us and our allergy world became more manageable than ever. Thank goodness! My son is allergic to the five foods listed earlier, but other food allergens also include wheat, shellfish and sesame.

-allergen-food-recalls

Coping Strategies
I learned a lot of lessons in my food allergy journey. That allergens are not always easy to avoid. That allergen avoidance means careful and consistent planning with your doctor. That you have to read food labels carefully to be sure that there are no allergy ingredients. That your child’s teacher and everyone who takes care of your child need to know the emergency plan for your child, just in case he/she is accidentally given any food that he/she is allergic to. That you have to have a couple of EpiPen Injections at home, school, and with your child at all times just in case of emergency. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE, 2015) stated that “patients with food-triggered eczema warrant an emergency action plan and prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector.” The doctor’s first option may be to prescribe drugs, but you have to advocate for food allergy test as the first option before allowing your child to be drugged while you spend so much on those drugs. Ford (2010) stated that “patients and caregivers who bring up the subject of food allergy during a medical consultation are more often than not, brushed off.” Do not allow any doctor to brush you off when you ask for food allergy test as the first option for your sick child. There are support groups for parents who have children with food allergies. Food and Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has a newsletter that educates parents on how to control their children’s food allergies. They also provide information on support groups that are in your area. These support groups have been very useful to me in this journey. They remind me that I am not alone on this journey. They organize walks in different cities to raise fund and awareness for children’s food allergies. They teach you how to work with your health insurance and restaurants to keep an eye on your child’s allergy reactions. For more information on the services of Food and Allergy Research and Education (FARE), visit their website at http://www.foodallergy.org. Also feel free to check my blog often for more tips on how to survive the food allergy saga.

Conclusion
In conclusion, I agree with Burks, Tang, Sicherer, Muraro, Eigenmann, Ebisawa, and Sampson,
(2012) that “The primary therapy for food allergy is strict avoidance of the causal food or foods” and not medication as first option. It is my belief that children with food allergies can live a normal and happy life.

References
Food and Allergy Research and Education (FARE) (2015).
New Research on Food Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis
Burks, A. W., Tang, M., Sicherer, S., Muraro, A., Eigenmann, P. A., Ebisawa, M., Sampson,
H. A. (2012). ICON: Food allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 129(4), 906-
920. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.02.001
Ford, R. P. K. (2010). Food allergies in children: Common but overlooked. The New Zealand
Medical Journal (Online), 123(1327) Retrieved from
http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1034261655?
accountid=3783

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