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Doctor Q & A: Helping Kids with Food Allergies

Dr. Angela Hogan, pediatric allergy specialist at CHKD, has these tips for families of children who have been recently diagnosed with a food allergy.

What advice would you give a parent whose child was recently diagnosed with a food allergy?

Make sure that everyone responsible for the care of your child knows how to recognize anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, and learns when and how to use the epinephrine auto-injector.

Every school-age child should have an allergy action plan at school. Request a meeting with the school nurse, principal and teachers. Start by asking lots of questions. Find out if the school has any food allergy management policies in place and work with administrators, teachers and the school nurse to create a food allergy management and prevention plan for your child.

Teach your child how to read food labels, eat out at a restaurant and avoid cross contact of foods and surfaces where foods are prepared and served.

Become the expert. Learn as much as you can about food allergies from reliable sources. Talk to your CHKD pediatrician. Find a support group. Two websites I recommend are and

Find your new balance point – where you feel prepared for an allergic reaction, but not paralyzed in fear waiting for one.

What are the most common allergy-causing foods?

The most common foods children are allergic to are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Typically several symptoms of a food allergy will occur during a reaction. Rarely will only one symptom appear. Below are various symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Skin – Redness, itching, hives, swelling, eczema
  • Gastrointestinal – Oral itching, swelling of the lips, tongue or palate, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Respiratory – Nasal congestion, itching, sneezing, throat swelling, hoarseness, dry cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing
  • Cardiovascular – Rapid heart rate, hypotension, dizziness, fainting.

Do children outgrow food allergies?

Sometimes. Children outgrow milk and egg allergies about 50 percent of the time. Shellfish and fish allergies can also subside with age, but less often than milk and eggs. Only around 20 percent of children with an allergic reaction to peanuts outgrow their allergy.

What’s the most important thing a parent can do to help their child with a food allergy?

Teach them to ask the right questions before eating unfamiliar foods and to always be prepared for an allergic reaction.

If you think your child has a food allergy, visit your CHKD pediatrician.

Visit our Health Library to learn more about how allergies are diagnosed and treated.

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About Children's Specialty Group

About Children's  Specialty Group Children's Specialty Group is the only pediatric multi-specialty practice serving southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The physicians of Children's Specialty Group base their practices at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and serve as faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Learn more about our specialists here.