Children And Peanut Allergies

January 10, 2012 Updated Jan 10, 2012 at 9:27 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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January 10, 2012 Updated Jan 10, 2012 at 9:27 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY ( WKBW ) Dr. Raul Vazquez offered advice for parents and children on "Eyewitness News This Morning" coping with peanut allergies.

Here is some information you need to know from a recent USA TODAY article:

Food allergies are a growing problem. The number of school-age kids affected rose 18% from 1997 to 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. About 8% of kids have them, a study in April in Pediatrics showed.

In the USA, about 150 people of all ages die from food allergies a year; 80% to 90% of deaths are from peanuts or tree nuts, says pediatric allergy specialist Robert Wood of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore. Parents should try to avoid exposing their children to problem foods, but doctors say it's perhaps more important to prepare for slip-ups.

"We reassure parents that kids will have a reaction," says Wood, who has no personal knowledge of the girl's case. "Somebody is going to make a mistake. But we reassure parents that kids are not going to die. These are preventable deaths."

Wood says children who die from food allergies tend to have three things in common: asthma; nut allergies, which are usually more serious; and a delay in getting injectable epinephrine, which can stop fatal allergic reactions.

Tips for parents
-- Talk to teachers, babysitters about what child can eat.

-- Instruct child not to share food.

-- With child’s doctor, develop a “food allergy action plan,” with specific instructions on what to do for an allergic reaction. Give copies to teachers, care providers. See samples at foodallergy.org.

-- If child has a peanut allergy, make sure he or she has access to injectable epinephrine. A school or teacher can store this for smaller children.

Sources: Robert Wood, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Baltimore; Todd Mahr, Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, La Crosse, Wis.

Forty-eight states let kids carry epinephrine with a doctor's order and parental permission, says pediatric allergy specialist Todd Mahr, who co-wrote a report on food allergies for the American Academy of Pediatrics. For younger kids, a teacher or school nurse should keep the injection on hand. Antihistamines such as Benadryl are intended to alleviate mild symptoms, such as itching, but won't save a child's life, Wood says.

Mahr supports federal legislation that would let schools keep injectable epinephrine, to give even to children without prescriptions. That's because food allergies can develop at any time, and about 25% of serious reactions occur in kids with no known allergy.

Some schools have "nut-free" policies, but don't count on them, Mahr says. "You are putting your head in the sand if you believe your school is ever going to be peanut-free."