Keeping kids with food allergies safe

Trips to the emergency room for kids with food allergies are on the rise. Many are being brought in for a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction — called anaphylaxis — and are having a second severe reaction hours later, when they are still in the hospital. So, what can parents of kids with food allergies do to avoid the terror of an emergency room visit, other than doing their best to avoid the foods their children are allergic to?

Many of these severe reactions could have been prevented in the first place. Avoidance of the allergen is key and most parents will do everything in their power to protect their child from that particular substance, but in addition, there are five things parents of children with food allergies must do to keep their children safe and out of the emergency room:

• Do not be afraid to administer epinephrine. Give epinephrine at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction.

• No one is immune to food allergies, and new food allergies can develop at any time, so always be aware of severe allergic reaction symptoms to look out, for including: hives, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, repetitive coughing, throat swelling, tongue swelling, dizziness.

• Anaphylaxis can happen anywhere at any time, and it can be deadly if not treated quickly and properly. Parents must educate themselves, their children, their friends, their family, schools, camps, babysitters, and anyone else caring for their child about the severity of food allergies and how to avoid life-threatening allergic reactions.

• Be vigilant about cross contamination. Battling food allergies is not only about avoiding consumption of the allergen, but also about avoiding contact with the allergen. Wash hands with soap and water and keep kitchen surfaces and tables clean. Do not share food, drinks, or utensils.

• Always have a second dose of epinephrine with you and use it if a second reaction starts to occur again.

Dr. Buck Parker is a trauma surgeon and one of the stars of NBC’s show “The Island.” He provides expert medical opinions on the web, radio, and television programs nationwide.