Thursday, October 10, 2013

Some Tips about Food Allergies and Halloween

MAYWOOD, Ill. – The scary reality is that food allergies are becoming more and more common in the United States. In the past 10 years the number of children with food allergies has increased 18 percent.  In fact, 6 to 8 percent of children have at least one food allergy. That means, on average, two students per classroom have a food allergy.  Halloween parties and trick-or-treating are just a few of the end-of-fall activities that can heighten the danger for kids with food allergies.

“Food allergies can be tricky,” said Joyce Rabbat, MD, pediatric allergy specialist at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Just because a child had a mild reaction, such as a rash, the first time doesn’t mean it can’t be more serious the next time."

Reactions can cause symptoms that range from watery eyes and a rash to anaphylaxis, which is a rapidly progressive and severe allergic reaction that can involve airway swelling and a drop in blood pressure.  This can hinder breathing and cause a person to lose consciousness.

“While nut allergies have the reputation for causing severe reactions, any food allergy could result in a severe reaction like anaphylaxis,” Rabbat said.  “Halloween candy often contains common allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk and egg."

Here are a few tips to help keep your child safe at Halloween parties:

  • Plan food-free Halloween activities, like costume contests and games.
  • Communicate with the party host about your child’s allergy and provide a list of specific foods that may cause a reaction.
  • Make sure all pans, dishes and serving utensils have been thoroughly cleaned if previously used with the allergen.
  • When shopping, check product labels. If it says the food has been made on the same machine as with the allergen, stay away. If it is processed in the same plant as products with the allergen, it’s probably OK.
  • Wipe down all surfaces after preparing or eating allergenic foods.

Here are a few ideas for keeping trick-or-treating safe for children with allergies:

  • Don’t let your food-allergic child trick-or-treat alone and make sure the child has self-injectable epinephrine on hand.
  • As soon as your child returns home go through the candy and separate out all treats with allergens or those that could cause a reaction. When in doubt get rid of the candy. It’s always a good idea to check your children’s candy after trick-or-treating, even if they don’t have an allergy.
  • Be careful with “fun size” candy, as they may contain different ingredients than the regular-size package.
  • After you, a friend or relative have eaten a product with an allergen, be sure to brush your teeth and wash your hands before hugging or kissing a child with an allergy.
  • “Although having a food allergy is serious, kids should still be able to have fun. The key is education.  Make sure your children know what they can eat.  When in doubt, throw it out!” Rabbat said.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.