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Quiz: The truth about children and food allergies

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The most common childhood allergy is to:

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The most common childhood allergy is to:

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

According to Allergy UK, children in the UK are most affected by dairy allergies, primarily milk and eggs. Allergies to peanuts are also common, as well as fish and seafood allergies. Statistics show that allergic reactions like hayfever, asthma and eczema have increased dramatically over the past 4 decades. It's not understood why, but now, almost every classroom contains a child with an allergy to eggs, nuts, or milk.

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Preparing a packed lunch can help protect your child from food allergies.

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Preparing a packed lunch can help protect your child from food allergies.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

While you certainly have more control over what your child eats by packing her lunch – it doesn't guarantee safety from exposure to allergens. It's common for children to share food and just one bite of another child's biscuit or peanut butter sandwich could potentially expose your child to food that triggers a bad reaction. By all means, pack an allergen-free lunch, but also educate your child not to be tempted to try other children's food, no matter how appetising it may appear! Also, make sure school staff have a clear, written management plan with details of allergy triggers, medications, and emergency phone numbers. A simple craft project, such as making a gingerbread house, can involve food products that expose children to allergens.

Which food can cause a severe allergic reaction?

Which food can cause a severe allergic reaction?

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

The foods listed here are the most likely causes of a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. It can be potentially life-threatening, so watch for symptoms that include:

  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of lips, tongue, mouth, or throat
  • Confusion, lightheadedness, collapse, loss of consciousness

If your child has asthma or has had a severe reaction before, they are more at risk. Treat these symptoms as a medical emergency.

If your child has a peanut allergy, she should avoid tree nuts too.

If your child has a peanut allergy, she should avoid tree nuts too.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Peanuts are actually legumes, rather than true nuts. So if your child is allergic to peanuts, it doesn't mean he's automatically allergic to tree nuts like walnuts, pecans, or cashews, as they come from a different plant family. However, the protein in peanuts is similar to those in tree nuts, so don't take any chances, as your child could be allergic to them all.

Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are the same thing.

Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are the same thing.

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It's easy to confuse milk allergy with lactose intolerance, as symptoms are similar, but they are not the same thing. Lactose intolerance happens when your child lacks a certain enzyme that makes her unable to digest lactose, or milk sugar. Both conditions can cause vomiting and stomach ache within about 30 minutes of eating dairy foods. Consult your GP to identify which condition your child has, if she shows symptoms.

Your child just needs to avoid peanuts to avoid an allergic reaction.

Your child just needs to avoid peanuts to avoid an allergic reaction.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

If only it could be that simple. The problem is that some children are more sensitive to peanuts than others. Plus, peanuts can be 'hidden' in other foods, from biscuits to cereal. If your child is hyper-sensitive, he may have a reaction by simply touching peanuts or equipment that came into contact with peanuts. On the other hand, most people with peanut allergies are able to eat some types of peanut oil. Monitor his reaction by keeping a symptom diary and check with your GP or allergy specialist what is safe for your child.

Your child should avoid high-allergen foods until age 3.

Your child should avoid high-allergen foods until age 3.

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  • Correct Answer:

It used to be believed that delaying exposure to certain high allergen foods could prevent children developing allergies. Evidence has since shown that this practice really makes no difference unless there's a close family history of allergies. In these cases, a baby is more likely to develop an allergy or allergies. When weaning after 6 months, the NHS advises introducing solid foods that may cause allergic reactions just one at a time. That way, if the child does react, it helps to pinpoint the problem food. This includes milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish.

You can get jabs to cure your child's food allergies.

You can get jabs to cure your child's food allergies.

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  • Correct Answer:

While certain therapies may help relieve allergy symptoms, there's currently no cure for food or other allergies. For some allergies your GP may suggest immunotherapy (allergy injections). However, although these may help respiratory symptoms of allergies like hayfever, they have not been proved to help food allergy. Some antihistamine medication can help ease minor and major symptoms. Your GP can help you form a treatment plan for allergy symptoms, as well as a plan for treating severe reactions.

Food additives frequently cause allergic reactions.

Food additives frequently cause allergic reactions.

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Allergy UK says as many as 20% of parents report their children have reactions to food additives like colourings, sweeteners and preservatives. Reactions range from rashes and asthma attacks, to life-threatening anaphylaxis. However, research shows fewer than 1 in 100 children actually have an allergic reaction to food additives. Most are chemical reactions. For instance, your child may have diarrhoea after drinking fruit juice, but it's an inability to process fructose that triggers the upset, not an allergy. Other substances that can trigger reactions are lactose (in milk) and sulphites (in juice and pickled foods).

If a certain food gives your child a rash, is it alright to use over-the-counter medicine?

If a certain food gives your child a rash, is it alright to use over-the-counter medicine?

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The NHS recommends keeping over-the-counter antihistamine medication at home to help relieve hayfever or mild food allergy. Always check with your GP or pharmacist that the medication is suitable and age-appropriate for children, and only give it as directed. An antihistamine should ease itching and rashes. For more severe reactions, your GP may prescribe adrenaline injector pens that are suitable for your child to use. Make sure you and others who care for your child know how to use it. 

How fast do most children react to a severe food allergen?

How fast do most children react to a severe food allergen?

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  • Correct Answer:

An anaphylactic reaction can happen fast, in children as well as adults. Most reactions to food take place within an hour. Others happen in minutes or even seconds. About a third of the time, reactions are delayed until a few hours later. Call 999 for any severe symptoms. If your child has a history of severe reactions, you have probably been prescribed an adrenaline injector pen. Don't hesitate to use it, even if you're not sure if symptoms are an allergic reaction. Follow the instructions to the letter. Use a second dose if symptoms don't subside in 5 – 10 minutes. If your child appears to feel better, still get her to hospital, to be on the safe side.

Children can outgrow some food allergies.

Children can outgrow some food allergies.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Children tend to outgrow allergies to milk and eggs by about 5 years old, although some last into the teenage years. Peanut allergies were previously considered a lifelong allergy condition, but recent studies suggest this may not be the case as up to 1 in 5 people are believed to outgrow their peanut allergy. If you think your child may have outgrown a nut allergy, or he hasn't had a reaction for 3 years, see your GP who may arrange an oral challenge test. 

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Your Score:   You correctly answered   out of   questions.
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Not bad, but knowing more about your child's food allergy can help you manage it better. Read up and try again.

Learning more about your child's food allergy can help you manage it better. Read up and try again.

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