Winter 2010
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Managing Food Allergies and Asthma

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As the holidays come to a close, many Americans have spent the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas indulging in their favorite foods. However, for kids with food allergies, eating whatever they want can lead to severe life-threatening reactions. And, if your kids have asthma, the food allergies may also lead to asthma attacks.

According to the American Academy of Asthma Allergy & Immunology, the most common food allergens are the proteins in cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish and tree nuts. Food preservatives such as sulfites can also trigger an asthma attack. Sulfites are commonly found in dried fruit, wine and other processed foods.

Symptoms of food allergies commonly include rash, hives, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If food allergies trigger asthma attacks, your kids may also experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. If these symptoms are not treated quickly, then anaphylaxis (swelling of the throat and cutting off of the airway) may occur. Anaphylaxis is a severe life-threatening condition.

It is important to know that asthma symptoms and early symptoms of anaphylaxis can be very similar. Begin treatment immediately if you notice that your kids are having any of these symptoms. Children should follow doctor's instructions for taking asthma medications and epinephrine. Don't hesitate to call for emergency assistance if needed.

If you suspect your kids have food allergies, you should discuss your concerns with their doctor. Allergy skin tests can be performed to determine which foods they may be allergic to. If they do, in fact, have food allergies, try to avoid coming into contact with these foods. To help avoid food triggers, read labels and ask how foods are prepared.

Their doctor may also administer allergy shots, called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy helps to protect their immune systems from overreacting to certain triggers. You can discuss immunotherapy with the doctor to determine if they are good candidates for these allergy shots.

Don't let food allergies ruin the holidays. Be aware of the foods your kids are allergic to and let them indulge in the ones that do not contain any of their food allergies. Also remind them to play it safe by having their asthma medications and epinephrine with them at all times.

For more information about food allergies and asthma, please contact the Seton Asthma Center at (512) 324-3320.

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Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.