Forbidden Foods: The Latest News on Food Allergies

How to Avoid Food Allergy Attacks

If it turns out that your child does have a food allergy, you've got to do whatever you can to help him avoid that food. However, since he still could eat it accidentally, it's important to have medicine nearby to reverse a reaction. An over-the-counter antihistamine should relieve mild symptoms (watery eyes, runny nose, hives), but your doctor will probably give you a prescription for an EpiPen, a device that contains an easy-to-inject dose of epinephrine to reverse a severe reaction.

Thanks to a federal labeling law that went into effect in 2006, manufacturers must now say in plain language whenever packaged foods contain any of the eight most common allergens (but not sesame). In the past, parents practically needed a degree in food science in order to decipher the technical terms on the ingredient list-for example, milk was often listed as "casein" or "whey" and egg as "albumen" or "globulin." Now companies must say "milk" and "egg." This has certainly made it easier for families to shop safely.

However, the new labels can also be frustrating. As a precaution, more and more companies are now putting "advisory labeling" on products that says a product "may contain" an allergen, "is manufactured on shared equipment" with an allergen, or is "manufactured in the same facility" with an allergen. This vague language makes it tougher for parents to decide which products to avoid, and a study by the nonprofit Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) found that an increasing number of parents are actually ignoring the warnings. However, since these products could in fact be dangerous, doctors say that it's still better to be safe than sorry.

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