The question that makes parents of severely food-allergic kids lose the most sleep: how will they know when their child is experiencing what could be a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.
Note: STOP right here if you are reading this because you believe that your child is experiencing a severe reaction. Step away from the computer and follow your doctor's emergency instructions (such as administering an epinephrine auto-injector and calling 911. )
OK--so back to the question. This is a wonderful thing to discuss with your doctor because symptoms vary depending on the person. If your child has experienced only "mild" reactions in the past, be sure to get very clear details from your allergist about what to look for.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has some guidelines to follow that I included in a recent article I wrote for Chicago Baby magazine. Here is the list I included in the sidebar of that story:
Symptoms of a food allergy
If you see the following symptoms, it may indicate a food allergy reaction. If several areas of the body are affected, the reaction may be severe or even life-threatening. Called anaphylaxis, it requires immediate medical attention.
Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
Loss of consciousness (looking very sleepy, weak or drowsy counts)
Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics
A epinephrine autoinjector is your friend so don't hesitate to use it. Parents are afraid that they will use it at the "wrong" time but there is no wrong time. This question is worth a call to the allergist--don't wait for the next appointment.
It's so important to be ready for emergencies. FAAN has a wonderful Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan (FREE download) that your doctor can fill out for you. Keep them at school, at home and share this document with caregivers and friends.