When describing how most kids react to a plate of their least favorite foods, the term melodramatic would be an understatement.
“Yuck! Spinach again? It makes me gag.”
But for a small portion of kids, these terms aren’t exaggerations; they’re medically accurate statements.
Cameron Ledin is one of those children. The 8-year-old was recently diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a severe allergic inflammation of the esophagus that causes his body to have terrible reactions to a wide range of foods. When a person with EoE eats, his immune system can mistake certain foods as invaders. This causes white blood cells to attack the throat, and can lead to terrible pain in the stomach, joints and head.
EoE is rare and difficult to diagnose, especially in young children who can’t clearly express what they’re feeling. Complicating things even more, EoE symptoms often change over time, or won’t occur for hours or days after the person has been exposed to a trigger food, making it hard to pinpoint exactly what caused an inflammation. With so many variables involved, differentiating EoE from other food allergies or gastrointestinal issues is very tricky.
In Cameron’s case, proper diagnosis took years of testing. …
Researchers in Sweden recently published a small study showing that children whose moms and dads placed the children’s pacifiers in their own mouths before giving it to the child—sharing some of their oral bacteria—were less likely to develop allergies like eczema and asthma later in life.
The study’s smaller size suggests that more research is needed before a link between pacifier “sharing” and reduced allergy risk can be proven, but the findings do add to a growing body of research that suggests bringing up children in a hyper-clean environment may not be the healthiest way to raise them.
“Western culture is becoming an increasingly sterile environment, but that might not be ideal for young children as their immune systems develop,” says John Lee, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Food Allergy Clinic. “Their bodies need to learn what to attack and what to ignore. But if they’re exposed to too few, or the wrong kinds of germs, it can hinder development, sometimes confusing the immune system into attacking nonthreatening entities like pollen or food, which is what causes allergies.” …
By Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Children’s Hospital Boston
The holidays are a lot of fun for children and adults alike, but for those with allergies and asthma the season can be a little difficult at times. Homemade treats, seasonal decorations and visiting friends and family can all be potential allergy and/or asthma triggers. Here are a few easy ways to avoid some of the more common offenders this winter.
Holiday celebrations are often filled with new and different foods. From plates of cookies to potlucks where everyone brings their favorite dish, this time of year presents plenty of opportunities for people with food allergies to be exposed to foods that could cause reactions. Peanuts and tree nuts in baked goods are the most obvious risks, but these same treats may also contain eggs or milk―common triggers for people with food allergies, especially younger children. …
For children with food allergies Halloween can be very frightening. Not only could there be allergens lurking in their trick-or-treat bags, but they may also dread feeling left out of some of the season’s food-related festivities. Here are some things you can do to make sure your child with food allergies has a fun and safe Halloween:
- Teach your child which candy is safe. These days, most people give out pre-wrapped, name-brand candy, which means kids with food allergies can quickly recognize safe foods. Teach your child to recognize and avoid problem treats so he or she can pass on them without drawing attention to the issue. This is particularly important if they are going out on their own and may sneak a treat or two before coming home.
- Encourage trading for allergy-safe candy. If your child receives allergy-triggering candy, set up a trading circle with his friends, siblings or yourself so he can swap the treats for safer ones. It’s a good way to keep him safe and prevent him from feeling like his allergy is causing him to miss out.
- Engage the neighbors. If your child has severe food allergies, you may feel safer going to a few neighboring houses beforehand with allergy-safe treats the homeowner can give to your child when she trick-or-treats at their door. Let the neighbors know in advance what your child will be dressed as to avoid confusion, and allow them to distribute the allergy-safe treats discreetly.
- Help plan school functions. Being left out of a public activity because of a food allergy can be very hard on children. By volunteering to help with a school Halloween party you can ensure that there are allergen-free treats available and that it’s a safe environment for your child.
- Celebrate the spirit of the season. Candy is great, but there are lots of Halloween activities that are fun and have nothing to do with food. Carving pumpkins, decorating the house or creating the perfect costume are all great ways to celebrate Halloween. Emphasize the spirit of the season over the sweets to make sure your child with food allergies can enjoy the holiday as much as everyone else.
With the right planning, you can avert both allergic reactions and hurt feelings this Halloween—making sure the night is frightfully fun for everybody.
For more on this topic, watch this interview with Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital.