Back-to-School Allergy Planning - What You Need to Know
Food allergies are a very stressful issue for children and families. Given how diverse our food supply is, and the potential for foods to be ingredients or potential exposure to allergens in kitchens and prep areas means every mouthful is meaningful.
There are nine food allergens identified as having significant prevalence that must be clearly labeled by law. The Food Allergen Labeling and Protection Act was rolled out in 2004 and has been an important tool for those navigating these issues. The original eight allergens are: milk, soy, peanut, fish, shellfish, wheat, (tree) nuts, and eggs, and sesame was added to the federal list in the Spring of 2021.
One of the most common and most concerning is peanut allergy. Sensitivity can range from slight to life-threatening, and the issue may not be on the radar until a frightening health episode. For many with peanut and other severe allergies, it is critical to maintain and carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of accidental exposure. Family, childcare providers, friends, school nurses and teachers should all be trained to read food labels to avoid allergenic foods, understand signs of exposure and have an emergency response plan. To ease this process, Food Allergy Research and Education, a non-profit supporting those with allergies, has an emergency plan resource document.
The Price Chopper/Market 32 Pharmacy Team is conducting an awareness campaign about epinephrine auto-injector management, ask your pharmacist to assist with keeping these vital devices ready if they are needed. Work with your healthcare provider to ensure an emergency plan is in place.
There is some good news – strong research has shown it is possible to avoid developing a peanut allergy. Infants that show early signs of possible allergy issues, including family history, eczema and egg allergy may be on the road to a peanut allergy as well. If identified early, and coordinated/supervised by an allergist, pediatrician and registered dietitian-nutritionist, it has been shown that peanut allergy development can be mitigated/reduced with very controlled micro-doses (6-7 grams) of peanuts over time, and timing of that intervention is key. Ideally, the process should start when the baby is just starting on foods, at about the 6-month mark. It should NOT be attempted without coordination and supervision of experienced healthcare providers. It is a recent development in allergy prevention and care, discussion of any concerns should occur at one of the first pediatrician visits, so risks can be assessed as soon as possible. Early and medically supervised intervention could offer significant health and quality of life benefits if peanut allergy can be avoided.
 Togias A, Cooper SF, Acebal ML, et al. Addendum Guidelines for the Prevention of Peanut Allergy in the United States: Summary of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Sponsored Expert Panel. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017;117(5):788-793.