As the number of children with food allergies continues to rise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced the approval of the first medication to treat the second most common food allergy among children - peanuts.
The new medication, called Palforzia, was approved by the FDA on Jan. 31 and can be used in children ages four to 17. Although it is not a cure, the new medication is designed to minimize the incidence of severity of a child’s allergic reaction to peanuts. Palforzia works by exposing children to controlled dosages of peanut protein over time, which allows the chance for kids to build up a tolerance.
Although peanut allergies are one of the most common, one in 13 children suffer from potentially life-threatening food allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children with food allergies increased by about 50% between 1997 and 2011.
Here are a few ways you can keep your children safe from food allergies, according to EatRight.org:
- Get to know your child’s support team: Introduce yourself and your child to the adults he or she sees every day - teachers, nurses, coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria staff and administrators. Clear up any misconceptions they may have about food allergies. Provide them with specific information about your child and how they can support him or her.
- Know the epinephrine plan: Make sure your child’s epinephrine and written plans - such as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan and a 504 Plan - are up-to-date and on file. This means asking where your child’s epinephrine auto-injectors are stored, who has access to them, how easily they can be accessed in case of an emergency and that they are stored properly.
- Volunteer at your child’s school: Maintain frequent contact with a room parent and get involved. Sign up to volunteer or chaperone for classroom events or field trips. If you are unable to attend, ask a trusted friend, neighbor or family member who is comfortable administering epinephrine.
- Involve your child: Read books about food allergies with younger children. Help them practice with auto-injector trainers and make up fun hand-washing songs before and after meals. Teach older children to read food labels, avoid non-labeled (including homemade) foods, how to recognize symptoms of a reaction and to report bullying.
- Make safe meals and snacks fun: Try to treat allergies as a chance to teach children about healthful and safe eating. Read allergy-friendly cookbooks and blogs for inspiration, and get your child involved in safe food planning, shopping and preparation.