At Ian’s, we truly understand the stress of having a food allergy. An innocent dab of peanut butter on a cracker turns into a trip to the Emergency Room. A diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening food allergy soon follows and you feel overwhelmed, frightened and alone. As the mom of a child with a food allergy I completely get it – I’ve been there and here is what I’ve learned.
My name is Chrisann McCarthy, and I am the dietitian and consultant for Ian’s Natural Foods! I am happy to help answer any of your dietary questions or concerns.
I’ve learned that while food allergies are certainly frightening, and add an unwelcome dimension to parenting, they are manageable. An estimated 1 in 13 children in the US has a food allergy. Thanks to improvements in food labeling, an abundance of resources and a tight knit community of non-profit organizations, responsible food manufacturers and community support groups, those with food allergies are well supported. There are still improvements to be made, but progress has been steady.
In 2004, Congress passed legislation that requires food manufacturers to clearly label the following eight ingredients if they are present in a product: eggs, milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Why just these eight? They are responsible for 90% of all food induced allergic reactions in the United States. As more information about the prevalence of food allergies evolves, this list will undoubtedly change. As a result of an increase in the prevalence of sesame allergy, legislation has recently been introduced to add sesame to the list of defined allergens in the U.S. I’ve learned that ingredients can and do change without notice. It is imperative to read ingredient statements every time a product is purchased and reach out to food manufacturers with any questions or concerns.
In my experience, I also learned to lean on the abundance of resources currently available. FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) and FAACT (Food Allergy Anaphylaxis and Connection Team) are both fantastic organizations that provide useful tips and resources to help manage food allergies at every stage of life. KFA (Kids with Food Allergies) is a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American is an especially great resource for allergy friendly recipes. These are just a few of my favorite resources – there are many more and I would be happy to hear from you regarding your personal favorites. I believe that the more we share, the stronger we are as a food allergy community!
Finally, I’ve learned that managing a child’s food allergy must grow and develop with them. The strategies that worked for a preschooler may no longer be effective during the teenage years, nor will they be adequate for a college student. Fortunately, the growth and development of new resources within the food allergic community has allowed me to tweak my approach as needed. However, regardless of the stage, there is one thing that remains constant – always, always, always make sure an unexpired source of epinephrine is readily available and either your child or designated adult understands how to use it. Allergic reactions are never planned, but having epi-pens available insures that you will never be unprepared.