Improved vigilance and appropriate injections of epinephrine can reduce severe milk and egg allergic reactions in babies, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.
Not recognizing severe allergic symptoms, unavailability of epinephrine and fears around giving the medicine, cause severe reactions to go undertreated, add the researchers.
Tracking allergic reactions in infants
Researchers observed over 500 infants between three and 15 months, all of whom had already been diagnosed with or at risk for having an allergic reaction to milk, eggs, or peanuts. They tracked the babies allergic reactions in follow-up appointments every 3 years.
After documenting and statistically analysing over 1000 allergic reactions, the researchers found:
- lack of vigilance, such as forgetfulness or failing to check ingredients, accounted for almost 65% of all accidental allergic reactions to milk, egg, or peanut.
- avoidable mistakes such as misreading labels or cross-contamination when preparing food accounted for almost 16% of accidental allergic reactions to milk, egg, or peanut
- in over half of all allergic reactions, caregivers other than parents gave food containing the allergen
- about 11% of food allergies were due to reintroducing the allergen into the child’s diet
- less than 30% of severe symptoms was treated with epinephrine
Caring for a child with a food allergy: A guide
Based on the study's results, the researchers were able to outline key ways caregivers can better manage a child’s food allergy.
- Be more cautious. Read the labels and prepare food separately to avoid cross-contamination
- Ensure all caregivers, including relatives and teachers, are educated on their child’s food allergy
- Discuss with your child’s doctor before re-introducing the allergen back in your child’s diet.
- Become comfortable injecting epinephrine, which is necessary in emergencies
- Recognize when it is appropriate to use epinephrine during an allergic reaction
Food allergies affect up to 8% of children, the most common being egg, milk, and peanut.
For more information on managing your child’s food allergy, download this step-by-step illustrated guide on giving intramuscular injections.
Nira Datta, @NiraDatta