Food Allergy in Children: Care Instructions

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Overview

When your child has a food allergy, your child's body thinks that those foods are trying to do harm. It fights back by setting off an allergic reaction. A mild reaction may include a few raised, red, itchy patches of skin (called hives). A severe reaction may cause hives all over, swelling in the throat, trouble breathing, belly pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, or fainting. This is called anaphylaxis (say "ANN-uh-fuh-LAK-suss"). It can be deadly.

A good way to prevent your child's allergic reaction is to avoid the foods that cause it. An allergy doctor or a dietitian may be able to help you understand which foods will be okay and what to avoid. Learn what to do if your child has a reaction.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

During a mild reaction

  • Give your child a nondrowsy antihistamine, such as loratadine (Claritin), as your doctor recommends. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

During a severe reaction

  • Give your child an epinephrine shot. Older children can give themselves the shot if they have learned how. Keep it with your child at all times. Make sure it has not expired.
  • Call for emergency help. A severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening and is a medical emergency.

To prevent future reactions

  • Avoid the foods that cause problems. And try not to use utensils or cookware that may have been in contact with food your child is allergic to.
  • Teach your child's teachers and caregivers what to do if your child has a severe reaction to food that your child is allergic to.
  • Have your child wear medical alert jewelry that lists all allergies. You can buy this at most drugstores.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think your child is having a severe allergic reaction.

After you give an epinephrine shot, call 911, even if your child feels better.

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your child's body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or your child may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
    • Severe belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. (A baby with pain or nausea may be really fussy and not stop crying.)
  • Your child has been given an epinephrine shot, even if your child feels better.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Mild belly pain or nausea.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.