Living with a food allergy

Food allergy (disorder),Allergy to seafood (disorder), Seafood allergy,food hypersensitivity,Hypersensitivity to food,

The advice here is primarily written for parents of a child with a food allergy. However, most of it is also relevant if you're an adult with a food allergy.

Your child's diet

There's currentlyno cure for food allergies, although many children will grow out of certain ones, such as allergies to milk and eggs.

The most effective way you can prevent symptoms is to remove the offending food known as an allergenfrom their diet.

However,it's important to check with your GP or the doctor in charge of your child's care first before eliminating certain foods.

Removing eggs or peanuts from a child's diet isn't going to have much of an impact on their nutrition. Bothof these are a good source of protein, but can be replaced by other, alternative sources.

A milk allergy can have more of an impact as milk is a good source of calcium, butthere aremany other ways you can incorporate calcium into your child's diet, including green leafy vegetables. Many foods and drinks are fortified with extra calcium.

See your GP if you're concerned that your child's allergy is affecting their growth and development.

Reading labels

It's very important to check the label of any pre-packed food or drinks your child has in case it contains ingredients they're allergic to.

UnderEU law, any pre-packed food or drink sold in the UK must clearly state on the label if it contains the following ingredients:

  • celery
  • cereals that contain gluten including wheat, rye, barley and oats
  • crustaceans including prawns, crabs and lobsters
  • eggs
  • fish
  • lupin(common garden plants) seeds from some varieties are sometimes used to make flour
  • milk
  • molluscs including mussels and oysters
  • mustard
  • tree nutssuch as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • soybeans
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites(preservatives used in some foods and drinks)at levels above 10mg per kg or per litre

Some food manufacturers also choose to put allergy advice warning labels for example, "contains nuts"on their pre-packed foods if they contain an ingredient known to commonly cause an allergic reaction, such as peanuts, wheat, eggs or milk.

However, these aren't compulsory. If there's no allergy advice box or "contains" statement on a product, it could still have any of the 14 specified allergens in it.

Look out for "may contain" labels, such as "may contain traces of peanut". Manufacturers sometimes put this label on their products to warn consumers that they may have become contaminated with another food product when being made.

This can make it more difficult to know what ingredients are in a particular dish.

Examples of unpackaged food include food sold from:

  • bakeries including in-store bakeries in supermarkets
  • delis
  • salad bars
  • "ready-to-eat" sandwich shops
  • takeaways
  • restaurants

If you or your child have a severe food allergy, you need to be careful when you eat out.

The following advice should help:

  • let the staff know when booking a table at a restaurant, make sure the staff know about any allergies. Ask for a firm guarantee that the specific food won't be in any of the dishes served. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) offers chef cards that provide information about allergies, which you can give to restaurant staff. As well as informing the chef and kitchen staff involved in cooking your food, let waiters and waitresses know so they understand the importance of avoiding cross-contamination when serving you.
  • read the menu carefully and check for hidden ingredients some food types contain other foods that can trigger allergies, which restaurant staff may have overlooked. Some desserts contain nuts (such as a cheesecake base) and some sauces contain wheat and peanuts.
  • prepare for the worst it's a good idea to prepare for any eventuality. Always take anti-allergy medication with you when eating out, particularly an adrenalinauto-injector.
  • use what's known as a taste test in older children before your child begins to eat, ask them to take a tiny portion of the food and rub it against their lips to see if they experience a tingling or burning sensation. If they do, it suggests that the food will cause them to have an allergic reaction. However, the taste test doesn't work for all foods, so it shouldn't be used as a substitute for the above advice.

Further advice

Here's some more advice for parents:

  • notify your child's school about their allergy depending on how severetheir allergy is, it may be necessary to give the staff at their school an emergency action plan in case of accidental exposure. Arrange for the school nurse or another staff member to hold a supply of adrenalin. Food allergy bracelets,which explain how other people can help your child in an emergency, are also available.
  • let other parents know young children may easily forget about their food allergy and accept food they shouldn't have when visiting other children. Telling the parents of your child's friends about their allergy should help prevent this.
  • educate your child once your child is old enough to understand their allergy, it's important to give them clear, simple instructions about what foods to avoid and what they should do if they accidentally eat them.
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016