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Kids have food allergies? Be extra careful

Published On: Sep 20 2011 04:04:14 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 30 2010 12:35:36 PM CDT
Halloween treats

iStock / MentalArt

Most children can't wait to dig into the treats of Halloween. Anxious kids can hardly wait for October's end so that they can dress up in their favorite costume and go door-to-door collecting tasty candies and goodies.

But for the more than 3 million American children with food allergies, the treats can be the trickiest of all. Just one bite of some types of candy can be life-threatening. Ghost and goblins are not as scary to a child with food allergy as is a hidden peanut, milk in a candy product, or all sorts of treats without ingredient labels, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

About 100 Americans, usually children, die each year from food-induced allergic reaction, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Denise Bunning of Chicago has two children with severe food allergies. Her son Bryan was rushed to the hospital one year after eating a single gummy worm, reported WMAQ-TV in Chicago.

"The bulk container had previously contained a chocolate nut, so just the residue on the gummy worm was enough to cause my child to have an anaphylactic reaction," Bunning said.

Experts say eight foods are the most common food-allergy culprits: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

Parents of food-allergic children must read every candy label in their child's Halloween bag to ensure their child's safety.

"The allergy community continues to work with the Food and Drug Administration to improve product labeling," said Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of allergy at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "However, while labeling is getting better, peanut allergen-contamination of nonpeanut containing foods is still a possibility."

Gruchalla recommends that peanut- and other food-sensitive holiday revelers avoid homemade snacks and stick to hard candy and well-known treats that don't list peanut products among the ingredients. Also, do some research before eating off-brand foods or fun-size candy without an ingredient list.

"I always have a rule of three," Bunning said. "I read it at the grocery store, I read it when I put it away, and I read it when I feed it."

Experts say most children outgrow milk, egg, and wheat allergies, but sensitivity to tree nuts or shellfish may be a lifelong issue.

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