Food Allergies Pose Risk to Kids, Even When Known

By Amir Khan on June 25, 2012 9:44 AM EDT

Children
Even when kids have a known food allergy, they are still at risk of having an allergic reaction, according to a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Even when kids have a known food allergy, they are still at risk of having an allergic reaction, according to a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

Researchers looked at 512 infants between the ages of 3 months and 15 months who were diagnosed with an allergy for milk, eggs or peanuts. Over 36 months, 72 percent had at least one allergic reaction while 53 percent had more than one.

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"This is a high rate of reactions and concerning," David Fleischer, study coauthor and a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver, told USA Today. He said that parents were counseled about avoiding trigger foods on a "regular basis"

Accidental exposures to food allergies, such as a label misreading or cross contamination, resulted in 87 percent of the 834 allergic reactions reported in the study. Non-accidental exposures accounted for the other 13 percent.

Researchers were unclear why parents would intentionally give their child a food their allergic to, but speculated that parents were testing the child's allergy.

"In terms of purposeful exposures, those percentages haven't been reported before," Fleischer told ABC News. "Maybe parents were testing their children to see if they had outgrown their allergy. There's going to be a follow-up study, going back to families and asking exactly why caretakers were giving these foods on purpose."

Of all the accidental exposures, only 50 percent came from parents, underscoring the importance or informing caregivers of child allergies.

"The bottom line is that you have to maintain a high level of vigilance," Dr. Scott Sicherer, study coauthor and professor at Mount Sinai Hospital, told ABC News. "That applies to the parents, but also to other people taking care of the child: grandparents, siblings, babysitters, teachers. Basically everyone who is around the child needs to know about the allergy and understand what to do to keep the child safe."

Only 30 percent of the allergic reactions were treated by the parent of giver with epinephrine, which researchers say is the best way to treat it.

"[There's often a] fear of using epinephrine, a concern that there will be side effects," Fleischer told USA Today. "In studies that we've done, parents are surprised how quickly and effectively it works."

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