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December 13, 2006

What About the Less Serious Food Allergies?

As parents of children with food allergies, we spend most of our thoughts on keeping our children from exposure to the life threatening allergens. Whether your child is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, shell fish, soy, wheat or some other allergen, if anaphylactic reaction is a possibility, you are going to do whatever it takes to keep them safe. But what about those other food allergies? What if your child has milder reactions to some foods?

One of our kids reacts very easily to wheat. This is not a life-threatening situation (for her, that’s peanuts). She can eat some wheat products with no symptoms. There are other times when the hives flare-up and she is so uncomfortable. We try to provide lots of wheat free food choices and, at the age of seven, she knows what she likes and doesn’t like. And because she can tolerate some wheat, we’ve let her make food choices for herself.

What is the “right amount” when the allergy is not life threatening? I believe in letting our children make their own choices, yet the food allergy deal sometimes seems more like art than science and I feel better keeping my kids away from anything they are allergic to. I wonder if I'm alone on this one?

Posted by David at December 13, 2006 3:07 PM


My son is allergic to wheat, rye, barley, egg, milk, and peanuts. The rye, barley, and peanuts are untested as far as we know (and won't be for quite some time). The wheat and egg are very severe and must be avoided at all cost. The milk is our gray area. He does eat a bread mix that has whey in it, and has never reacted. I wrestle with this. He's not reacting, but am I keeping him from outgrowing the milk allergy because we don't fully avoid? He loves this bread and it is the only one he will eat. I hope and pray that I am doing the right thing by him. They've come out with a milk free version, so we will try that one now. Hopefully he likes it as much and I can stop worrying.

Posted by: ChupieandJsmama at December 14, 2006 5:42 AM

One of the first things our allergist said to us was that working with food allergies is definitely more of an art than a science. Thus far in our allergy journey we've been strict avoiders of all allergens with significant RAST scores, and unfortunately that makes for an extremely limited diet for my daughter (severe reactions to wheat and egg, super high scores on peanuts and treenuts, and high scores on milk, soy, oats, shellfish, and seeds of all kinds). We'll begin doing food challenges this year because we haven't a clue what will happen when she consumes some foods--like milk and soy and seeds--and so we'll be moving into these murky waters. What will be considered "acceptable tolerance" of an allergen? There may be evidence that too much avoidance of a "minor" allergen could be just as detrimental as too little avoidance of a major one, if some journal articles I've seen are correct (that not working to build up a tolerance over time could make a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak). Unfortunately, I don't think that even the medical professionals among us could state with any certainty that there is a hard and fast "rule" about this. Every allergic child is different, it seems. I can't help with this question yet, but maybe after we've done the food challenges I'll have something more helpful to say.

Posted by: Laura F. at December 15, 2006 9:20 PM