August 2012

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Health Capsule

Food Allergy Reactions in Kids

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Young kids allergic to milk or eggs had allergic reactions to these and other foods about once a year—even though their families were taught how to avoid these foods, a new study reports.

Food allergies are caused by an abnormal The system that protects your body from harmful microbes. immune system reaction to food. Severe allergic reactions can lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.

To learn more about food allergies in preschoolers, NIH-funded scientists followed 512 infants for 3 years. All had known or suspected allergies to milk or eggs. When the study began, the kids were 3 to 15 months old, and their parents or caretakers were taught strategies for avoiding allergy-triggering foods. They also received written emergency plans and prescriptions for epinephrine, a drug that reverses symptoms and can save lives.

The researchers found that nearly 3 in 4 children had a food allergy reaction during the study, and over half had more than one reaction. Most reactions were to milk (42%), egg (21%) and peanut (8%). In about 1 in 10 cases, the foods were given to the kids on purpose, even though their caretakers had learned how to avoid the foods.

Over 11% of the allergic reactions were severe. But less than a third of these were treated with epinephrine, the recommended treatment for severe reactions. In most cases, caretakers didn’t realize how severe the reaction was, didn’t have epinephrine available or feared giving the drug.

“What is troubling is that in this study we found that a significant number of young children received allergenic foods from parents who were aware of the allergy,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. David Fleischer of National Jewish Health in Denver. The findings suggest that parents need to be better educated about the importance of avoiding allergy-triggering foods and treating severe reactions with epinephrine.

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