Once one of your children is diagnosed with a food allergy, it’s perfectly natural to start worrying even more about your other children. Will they have the same food allergy? Or will they have a different, yet nonetheless life threatening, food allergy? Will you recognize the signs before it’s too late?
As it so happens, scientists have tackled this very question. Unfortunately, the results are conflicted.
Research Is Conflicted
A study led by Dr. Ruchi Gupta and published in the Journal of Allergy and Immunology: In Practice indicates that the risk for food allergies is “minimally higher” among children with at least one sibling diagnosed with food allergies.
Peanut allergies may be a different story, however. A study led by Joel Liem and published in Allergy and Asthma Clinical Immunology concluded that children with a sibling diagnosed with peanut allergy were “dramatically” more likely to be allergic to peanut as well.
And yet another study using the Canadian Peanut Allergy Registry agreed with Dr. Gupta’s study, and surmised that the increased risk of food allergies among children is a myth that originated because doctors tended to assume that it would be true. Thus, parents of a child diagnosed with, for example, a peanut allergy were advised to treat the second child as if he or she had a peanut allergy, too.
Unfortunately, conflicted research won’t help calm your nerves as a parent. So what’s next?
Allergy Tests Can Help Pinpoint Problematic Foods
The best thing to do is to have each child separately tested for food allergies or food sensitivities. Ask your allergist about the best ages at which to test for food allergies and whether avoidance or exposure to potential allergens is recommended in the meantime.
With the personalized test results in hand, you will feel much better about taking care of each of your children exactly as needed, with no guessing involved.
In fact, anecdotally speaking, I know of more siblings without shared food allergies than of siblings who have the same allergies (i.e., all three kids in a family being allergic to peanuts and milk). What is your experience? Let us know in the comments below.
Managing Food Allergies at Home: Safety First
With even one child in your home who has a potentially life-threatening food allergy, exposure and cross-contamination is something to take very seriously. Play it safe by either banning an allergen from the home altogether, or by keeping allergen-containing foods in clearly marked containers. Practice good hand washing habits and clean surfaces and eating utensils right away.
Be sure that all of your children recognize the signs of anaphylaxis, know where to find an epinephrine auto-injector, and know how to administer it to themselves or to someone else. That way, if one of your children has an unexpected anaphylactic emergency from an undiagnosed food allergy, he or she will know what to do.
Hopefully, that won’t happen, but it’s always good to be prepared.
Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us a bit about the food allergies in your family: Do all of your children have food allergies? Are they all the same, or are they different? Have any tips to share with other parents? Comment below and don’t forget to share!