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September 5, 2006

Good Introductory Article from San Diego on Child Food Allergies

Parents adapt menus for son's food allergies
source: San Diego Union Tribune
By Triveni Sheshadri

When he was 8 months old, after eating a meal of cereal and macaroni and cheese, Nathan Wagner had to be rushed to the emergency room with a swollen face and skin that had turned bright pink.

A follow-up visit to a specialist confirmed Sue Wagner's suspicion that her son had food allergies. But instead of the one or two triggers she was expecting, the doctor reeled off a long list of foods that could harm Nathan.

Chief among them are mustard and peanuts, which in some people can cause severe anaphylactic reactions such breathing difficulty. For those who have food allergies, milk and milk products, eggs and soy can cause hives, swelling, vomiting and anxiety.

“When I heard the doctor, I was thinking, 'What do I feed him when he gets hungry 20 minutes from now,?' ” Wagner said.

Nathan, now 5, is among the 12 million Americans who suffer from food allergies. Of those, 3 million are schoolchildren. The leading triggers are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Nathan's family has adapted to his needs. All of his meals are prepared at home. Wagner packs a lunch bag, epinephrine and antihistamine even on a short trip to the supermarket. Nathan's 3-year-old sister, Aubrey, makes sure she washes her hands after eating a bag of Cheetos. Wagner and her husband have learned to read food labels, a task complicated by multiple names for foods.

“It's bit overwhelming,” Wagner said. “Milk can be lactose and eggs can go by albumen. At that point you don't think about what you can't have. You switch to the positive and think about what you can have. You start with your staples, your building blocks.”

Nathan is a healthy and active kindergartner who loves animals. His favorites are reticulated pythons and boa constrictors. “I want to be a herpetologist,” he said.

His parents try to find a balance between keeping Nathan safe and allowing him to do the things he loves, such as playing soccer and attending Padres games. On trips to Petco Park, Wagner and her husband make sure people sitting near them don't throw peanut shells in their direction. They are always on the alert for triggers that lurk in unexpected places, such as toys and toothpaste.


Posted by David at September 5, 2006 10:20 AM