Food Allergies: What Parents Should Know
With studies and the media reporting increases in kids’ food allergies, should parents be worried? Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s allergist and immunologist Grace Peace Yu, M.D., answers some of the questions she hears most frequently from parents.
Can food allergies be cured?
No, at least not yet. A study last year in The New England Journal of Medicine found that patients allergic to egg could be desensitized to this food by giving small doses daily and gradually increasing the dose over time. This indicates that there may be a way to desensitize children who have food allergies.
This is breakthrough work for people living with food allergies. Unfortunately the results of this study are not ready for general public use, and doctors do not recommend that people try to recreate the results at home.
Are food allergies genetic?
There is certainly a genetic component to food allergies. In identical twins, if one is allergic to peanut, the other twin has a 67 percent chance of also being allergic. In siblings, if one sibling is allergic to peanut, the other sibling has a seven percent risk of also being peanut allergic.
Will my child outgrow her food allergy?
That depends upon the food and each individual child. It’s more likely that a child will outgrow an egg, milk, soy or wheat allergy. If your child has a peanut, tree nut, fish or shellfish allergy, he or she is less likely to outgrow these.
Should I hold off introducing certain foods to my children to avoid common allergies?
The evidence is not clear that delaying the introduction of certain foods will decrease the odds of your child developing food allergies. Research is currently being done to determine whether early introduction of peanuts into a child’s diet affects the development of food allergies.
My son has just been diagnosed with a peanut allergy. What’s the best treatment?
The best thing you can do for your son is ensure he avoids consuming any foods that cause an allergic reaction. Because there is a risk of accidental ingestion, he should carry an EpiPen Twin Pak (a portable device with two doses of epinephrine) and an antihistamine like Zyrtec or Benadryl at all times.
Grace Peace Yu, M.D., is a board-certified allergist and immunologist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Dublin and Fremont Centers.