Spring has sprung, and sprouted, and blossomed, and it has me thinking about allergies. Actually, it's forced me to think about them, as I rub my watery eyes, and sneeze just walking out the door. I'm not alone; as many as 50 million Americans suffer some type of allergy.*
And I was wondering, how do YOU keep your kids from eating stuff they're allergic to?
As summer approaches, out come the grills, the picnics, the family reunions, and the outdoor food festivals. When choosing what to cook or bring, it's handy to be aware of the most common food allergies, especially amongst children. So here they are, the five leading childhood food allergies:
1. Cow's Milk and things made from cow's milk. It's the protein in the milk that trigger's the allergy.
2. Eggs. Common in babies and young children. About 80% of kids outgrow egg and milk allergies by age five. Egg and egg powders are found in all sorts of dishes, from cakes to some fried chicken recipes.
3. Seafood and shellfish (including shrimp, crab meat, clams, lobster and other crustaceans).
4. Peanuts and tree nuts.
5. Wheat. There are wheat allergies and then there's Celiac Disease. A parent of a kid with Celiac Disease has to be hyper aware of what their kid eats, because gluten (the trigger) lingers in other grains as well.
How do allergies happen? An allergic reaction occurs when a person's immune system over-reacts to a food or substance that is harmless to most people. Their immune system produces antibodies to that food or substance, which causes other cells to release chemicals into their bloodstream, including histamine. Histamines can produce moderate to life-threatening symptoms in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.
An Allergy is different from a "food intolerance". Food intolerance is an adverse reaction that does not involve the immune system. Lactose intolerance is one (inability to digest the lactose in milk). When I was little I had an intolerance to MSG, the seasoning that some Asian restaurants still use. It gave me a tingling sensation in my jaw followed by a pounding headache. This is a common childhood food intolerance. MSG is present in many grocery items including some rice mixes, so be careful when introducing little kids to seemingly harmless dishes like flavored rice.
Have I ruined your picnic yet? I don't mean to. Usually there are lots of options at these gatherings. As the host you'd be kind to ask ahead, and place the offending dishes in a separate area or a cooler, just out of reach of tiny hands and mouths.
* References: Kidshealth.org "All About Allergies".
Aucland Allergy Clinic: www.allergyclinic.co.nz