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Food allergies

April
28

Back when I was in high school, I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich pretty much every day for lunch. I’d never heard of anyone allergic to peanuts then, and I wasn’t relegated to some table far away from all the other kids so I wouldn’t accidentally kill anyone with my sandwich.tjndc5-5ixlfhwcx7910q8xg5e0_original-2-2.jpg

In fact, I’d never heard of food allergies at all until my mom’s cousin suggested to her that she stop eating wheat. Apparently, the allergy ran in our family and it put my mom’s nerves on edge (it was either the wheat or my adolescence, and there was nothing we could do about the latter, so it was worth a shot).

A couple weeks after she quit eating wheat, cold turkey, we all saw a difference. She was calmer, considerably less on edge all the time.

So it was with great interest that I read this article over at The Village Stream.

It made me realize how lucky I am that neither of my little guys has a food allergy (none that we know of, at least), and how difficult it is to diagnose it.

Pam has run a home-based day care for 20 years and recalled a couple of children early on who had sudden behavior changes; on the surface, the behavior was in reaction to pain these children were feeling, but it turned out it was a milk allergy that caused the pain.

One of her own children also had a food allergy, and Pam learned that her son would crave what he was allergic to until it completely left his system.

So they stopped buying chocolate milk, chewable vitamins (many children are allergic to the dyes and other additives in them) and other items he was allergic to. Keeping the culprits out of the house entirely was the only way to ensure her son wouldn’t suffer.

From her own experiences, Pam has realized that picky eaters might not just be picky; they might have an allergy.

The National Institutes of Health is home to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which has an excellent overview (download the PDF) of food allergies and, interestingly enough, the most common foods that cause allergies in adults vs children are slightly different.

Adults: shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts), fish, eggs. Children: Eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts.

In addition, adults generally have their allergies for life once they become allergic. (My dad, in his mid-60s, suddenly became allergic to peanuts. The man had eaten peanut butter sandwiches nearly every day for decades!) It’s not uncommon, however, for children to outgrow milk, egg and soy allergies, though, for whatever reason, peanut allergies tend to stick around.

Also interesting is that it’s the foods most commonly eaten that cause the most allergies. In Japan, rice allergies are not uncommon; in Scandanavia, many have an allergy to codfish.

I know that I’ll continue to try to get my little guys to try any food once, even if they have turned their noses up at it multiple times. After all, rejecting food they haven’t eaten is no sign of anything except toddler independence.

But behavioral changes and inexplicable pains or other reactions could, indeed, be a sign of an allergy.

Associated Press photo by Mark Lennihan

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 28th, 2008 at 4:23 pm by Amy Vernon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: allergies, autism, food allergies

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About this blog
You make it, they eat it, right?

As most parents soon discover, feeding a family is rarely that easy, whether its nursing a fussy newborn or trying to get a hot meal into a squirming toddler (or attempting both at the same time.) And that's not even the days when work runs late, the main course burns, or your adventurous little sushi eater announces from now on she will only eat food that is pink.

As parents ourselves, we've been there, done that, even learned a few tricks along the way. And we're pretty sure so have you. Maybe together we can make eating together as a family -- gulp! -- fun again.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

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About the authors
Hema Easley Hema Easley has been a reporter for The Journal News since July 2002, first covering municipal government and then nonprofit agencies, women's issues and the South Asian and Muslim community in the Lower Hudson Valley. In her previous job, Hema was a correspondent for the Associated Press in South Asia. She lives with her husband and two sons in Orange County.
KatieKatie Ryan O'Connor, a Journal News editor and 35-year-old mother of three, never quite appreciated the work that went into feeding kids until she had to do it herself as a mother. If she had a food-and-kids philosophy it would be something like this: try your best to offer as much healthy food as possible, but sometimes fruits just have to be counted as vegetables and there are far worse things than chicken and spaghetti. Again.
TraceyTracey Princiotta, a 37-year-old mother of one, loves to cook, bake and eat, and is relieved that her son appears to be equally willing to chow down -- even if it's baby food and formula right now. Despite her husband's intense aversion to vegetables, she has high hopes of nurturing a true chowhound who will try everything at least once. And if all else fails, she's not above sneaking veggies into other foods.
Marcela Rojas Marcela Rojas has been a municipal reporter with The Journal News since January 2003. She is a native of Putnam County and grew up eating Peruvian food. She didn't realize until she was 13 that rice did not come with everyone's meal. After several years of living in Los Angeles -- where she grew a fondness for Thai food -- she returned to Putnam County where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Zyla (rhymes with Lilah) just turned 1 in March and, so far (her mother is pleased to note), loves to eat everything.
Swapna Venugopal Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, a Journal News reporter, started her career as a journalist in 1999 after graduating with a master's degree from New York University. Before joining the paper in 2006, Swapna worked as a municipal reporter for the Home News Tribune in New Jersey, and took a baby sabbatical to care for her two children, now ages 7 and 5. She has currently outsourced feeding her children and husband to her mother, who is visiting from India. Her friend and colleague Katie O'Connor, informs Swapna that she wouldn't mind being fed Indian food by her mother, too.
Randi Weiner Randi Weiner has been a reporter with The Journal News since 1989, having covered police, government and schools in Westchester and in Rockland. An Ohio native and 1976 graduate of Bowling Green State University, she worked for daily newspapers in Ohio and Michigan before moving east. She has tended bar and danced in a beledi troup and sat on the boards of two community theaters. She plays mandolin with the Shamrogues, ConnecticutÕs largest Irish band. Randi lives in Connecticut with her husband and has three children.

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