Understanding, Preventing, and Responding to Emergencies Due to Food Allergies
If children seem to feel bad or have physical symptoms after eating certain foods, then they may have allergies or intolerance to specific foods or food additives. Here are some examples:
- Milk sugar (lactose) intolerance can cause stomachaches.
- Chemicals in cheese and chocolate, preservatives, and food dyes can cause headaches.
Some children are allergic to certain foods or additives. Foods that commonly cause allergic reactions include milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts. Foods can cause reactions whether they are eaten raw or cooked. Symptoms may occur after eating even tiny amounts of the food.
Reactions can be mild, such as headache, diarrhea, or hives (red, itchy, swollen areas of the skin).
Severe reactions can cause swelling of the tongue and throat, breathing difficulty, and loss of consciousness. If children develop breathing difficulties or become unconscious, call emergency help immediately.
Talk to the child's parent and encourage them to speak to their doctor if you think food is causing physical reactions. The doctor can help the family identify the food or additive. The first treatment is to avoid the foods that cause problems.
What do you see?
- Child's lips, tongue, or mouth can get puffy or swell.
- The child may have diarrhea or vomiting.
- Child may have a red rash all over the body.
- Child may have a hard time breathing.
- Child may have a sore throat or a runny nose.
What you can do
- If you know a food is making the child sick, speak to the parent about taking this out of their diet.
- Partner with the parent and read labels to find out what things are in the child's food. If the food has anything that makes the child sick, do not feed it to the child.
- If you and the parent do not know what is making the child sick, keep a list of all the foods your child eats. See which ones have a negative effect.
- When introducing new foods, give the child one new food at a time. Feed the child a lot of this new food. See if the child gets sick after eating it. Wait 3 days before introducing the child to a new food.
- If the child eats many foods and one food makes him sick, stop one food at a time. Stop feeding one food for a week and see how the child feels.
When to call a doctor, responding to food allergies
- Child cannot breathe, turns blue or white, or has chest pains after eating. Call 911 immediately.
- Child's face, neck, lips, or mouth gets enlarge. Call 911 immediately.
- Child becomes sick from many foods.
- You think the infant may be allergic to formula.
What else you need to know about food allergies
- Breastfed babies have fewer problems with allergies.
- When children are allergic to food, they may become sicker every time they eat it. Find out which foods make the child sick. Stop giving this food to the child.
- By the age of 2 or 3, many children can eat foods that once made them sick. But some children get sick from the same food all their life.
- Common foods that can give children allergies are:
- Cow's milk
- Peanuts/peanut butter
- Shellfish like shrimp, crab
- Infants younger than 1 year should not eat shellfish, egg whites, strawberries, and chocolate.
Preventing Food Allergy Emergencies
With the permission of the child's parent, you must post a list of each child's food allergies where you prepare and serve food and, in each room, where children spend time. The post must be in place where employees may easily view it. A current photo of the child along with the food allergy will help caregivers easily identify children with food allergies.
A Food Allergy Emergency Plan must be completed on each child with a food allergy. The child's parent and health care professional must sign and date the plan. You must keep a copy of the plan in the child's file, post it in the food prep area and in the classroom, and must be taken on field trips the child attends.
The Food Allergy Emergency Plan must include:
- A list of each food the child is allergic to.
- Possible symptoms if exposed to a food on the list
- The steps to take if the child has an allergic reaction