Winter 2012-13
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Food Allergies and Asthma: A Potentially Dangerous Combination


Food is a necessity of life and is often a symbol of celebration. It is a big part of culture and a highlight of festivities such as holidays, birthday parties, weddings and graduations. While food may taste great, it is important for parents to remember not to let their children eat any food that they may be allergic to.

This is especially important for kids with asthma. Food allergies alone may lead to a severe life-threatening reaction. However, if kids have food allergies and asthma, the food allergies may also lead to an asthma attack.

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 asthma attacks. Sulfites are commonly found in dried fruit, wine and other processed food.

Symptoms of food allergies commonly include rash, hives, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If food allergies trigger asthma attacks, your child may also experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. If these symptoms are not treated quickly, they could lead to anaphylaxis. Symptoms of this severe, life-threatening condition can include swelling of the tongue or throat that can cut off the airway and make breathing difficult.

It is important to know that asthma symptoms and early symptoms of anaphylaxis can be very similar. If you notice that your child is having any of these symptoms, begin treatment immediately. Follow doctor's instructions for administering asthma medications and epinephrine. Don't hesitate to call for emergency assistance if needed.

If you suspect your child has food allergies, be sure to discuss your concerns with the child's doctor. Allergy skin tests can be performed to determine which food he or she may be allergic to. If your child does in fact have food allergies, help your child avoid contact by reading labels and asking how food is prepared.

The doctor may also administer allergy shots, called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy helps to protect the immune system from overreacting to certain triggers. You can discuss immunotherapy with your child's doctor to determine if he or she is a good candidate for these allergy shots.

While food may be a way to celebrate and is a necessity of life, it is important for your child to indulge only in food that is not harmful. Be aware of the food your child should avoid. Also be sure your child plays it safe by carrying asthma medication and epinephrine at all times.

For more information about food allergies and asthma, please contact the Seton Asthma Center at 512-324-2762.

Food Allergies and Asthma: A Potentially Dangerous Combination

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