For Children with Allergies, Reading Food Labels Crucial

It is estimated that one in every 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy. Food allergy reactions can range from a rash to respiratory distress and even death. The uncertainty of how a child will react when exposed to food allergens is a great concern for parents.

“It is impossible to know how a child will react to a food allergen. Just because they had a mild reaction before doesn’t mean it won’t be more severe the next time,” said Joyce Rabbat, MD, medical director of the Pediatric Allergy Division at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Division of Allergy and Immunology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Rabbat says that avoiding the allergen is extremely important for a child with a food allergy and reading food labels is crucial for keeping the child safe.

“Avoidance is the mainstay of treatment. For a child who is allergic, ingesting even a small amount of the allergen could result in an allergic reaction. This is why becoming familiar with what to recognize on food labels is of utmost importance,” said Dr. Rabbat.

Though a 2004 law mandated that food labels list major fool allergens, not all possible allergens need to be listed. The only food allergens that must be listed are milk, eggs, soybean, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

“Any food not on the list does not have to be listed on food labels. In addition,
manufacturers are not required to list possible cross-contact or cross-contamination of the food with allergens. Many will print these potential cross contaminates, though this is not required by law. It is important for parents to be vigilant,” said Dr. Rabbat.

Dr. Rabbat also notes that ingredients usually are listed in order of quantity.

“The first few ingredients are the main ingredients represented in higher quantities. This is important because every child has a threshold of reactivity; in select cases, patients may tolerate small quantities of the food. But if too much is ingested, they may react. It’s important to discuss food allergen avoidance with your allergist, to determine what is safe for an individual to eat, and what to avoid.”

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About Loyola University Health System
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

About Trinity Health Loyola University Health System is part of Trinity Health, a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 84 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 89,000 employees.

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