Complications of Food Allergies

I must be psychic!  I am going to play the lottery.  I was right – I have no more information today than I did yesterday.  (This only makes sense if you read yesterday’s entry.)  My son had an allergic reaction and there is a very good chance that I will never know to what.  I can live with that because he can live with that.  The doc pricked his back with about 50 potential allergens and he didn’t really react to any of them.  Now that I am as confident as I can be that he won’t go into anaphylactic shock while I am trying to remember the code to unlock my cellphone to call 911, I can sleep at night.  I can even sleep during the day.  I actually fell asleep sitting up in a chair today – pre-Happy Hour!  I thought only old men did that.

If you or your children don’t have food allergies, you are probably thinking, “So what?  Don’t buy peanut butter.  Big deal.”  But, in addition to the eating limitations, there are several complications associated with food allergies.

1.  Weight Loss – In the case of severe and broad food allergies, it can take parents and health care professionals a long time to figure out exactly what foods a child needs to avoid.  This can result in malnourishment and wasting.  This malnourishment is  especially notable in cases of celiac disease.  Patients with celiac disease are essentially allergic to gluten.  After ingesting this protein, the lining of their small intestine is damaged, making it difficult or impossible to absorb many of the nutrients from their food.  While this may sound like the perfect diet, believe me, it is not something to hope for.

2.  Eosinophilic Esophagitis – This is an inflammatory, allergic reaction of the esophagus (the tube the takes food from your mouth to your stomach.)  In response to certain allergens, eosinophils (one type of white blood cell) pour into the lining of the esophagus.  In children, this results in symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, coughing and failure to thrive.  In adults, common symptoms are difficulty swallowing solid food, heart burn and chest pain.

3. Food allergies, eczema and asthma are closely linked.  People who suffer from one of these are at greater risk of having or developing the other two.  Additionally, food allergies cause a worsening of both eczema and asthma.

4.  Migraines – The histamines that are released during an allergic reaction are known to trigger migraines.

5. Social Stigma – I imagine that as more children develop food allergies and as awareness improves, it will become slightly easier to be the kid with the nut allergy.  Still, how hard must it be to always say no to the Snickers and to have to sit at the nut-free table in the cafeteria?

I think that I am part Italian grandmother.  I love to feed people and I love to watch my kids eat.  It must be so hard to always have to say no to your child – especially in our generation of insane parenting where we only say no if we have a very good reason.  I suppose risk of death is a very good reason.  I chaperoned a field trip to a Victorian-era museum today.  The recurring theme was that in the late 1800s, children were seen and not heard.  I don’t know about you but I could forego the car for a horse if it meant a little silence once in a while.

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