Food allergies in children on the rise -

Food allergies on the rise

Life-threatening allergies can be something your child may have and you may not know until it is too late.

Ten-year-old Grace Holowczenko tries to describe how it feels when she eats one of the foods she's allergic to.

"I get kind of itchy and I don't know what to do," Grace said.

Grace is among the 8 percent of children under the age of 18 living with a life-threatening food allergy, according to the Journal of Pediatrics. Allergy and asthma specialist Dr. Thomas Harper says every year between 150 and 200 children die because of allergic reactions to certain types of food.

"We have seen an explosion of food allergies in the last 10 to 15 years," Dr. Harper said. 

Dr. Harper says the top allergy-prone foods are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

"We discovered it on her first birthday," said Grace's mother, Tracy Holowczenko. "She had cake and ice cream and broke out in hives in about 15 or 20 minutes."

Like anyone with a food allergy, Grace can even have a reaction just by touching anything with dairy or peanuts in it.

"Sometimes when I sit down and people sit next to me, I tell them, 'You can't sit next to me.' I feel really bad saying that, but I have to do it to save my life," Grace said.

Dr. Harper says although the cause of food allergies is unknown, there are signs that your child may be allergic to a food item. Symptoms of a food allergy can include hives, swelling, wheezing, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness and sometimes death. 

"Every time you give that child something with that food item in it, you are playing Russian roulette," Dr. Harper said.

He says for teens going off to college, the threat of a reaction can be even greater.

Dr. Harper says if you suspect your child may be allergic to a certain food item, it is important to have them tested by an allergist and to always have the proper life-saving medication on hand in case of a severe reaction. 

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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