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Health Issues

Asthma and Food Allergies

A family history of any type of allergy increases the risk that a child may develop asthma. Children with asthma and food allergies are at increased risk for anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, even when their asthma is well controlled.

For children with known food allergies, especially those who also have asthma, parents should be thoroughly familiar with food ingredients. If their child has an anaphylactic reaction to foods, they should also carry an emergency dose of epinephrine at all times and make sure there is some with the child care provider and at school. Epinephrine, a drug that stops or slows down anaphylaxis, is available in spring-loaded self-injectable syringes. Though not a cure, a dose of epinephrine administered soon after symptoms begin should stall severe symptoms long enough to get necessary medical attention by calling emergency medical services (911).

Sulfites, which are used to stop discoloration, overripening, and spoiling, are known to trigger asthma attacks. These additives are found in processed beverages and foods, including fruit juices, soft drinks, cider vinegar, potato chips, dried fruits and vegetables, maraschino cherries, and wines. Numerous reports of allergic reactions—mostly among people with asthma—and of deaths associated with sulfite ingestion have led the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of sulfites in fresh fruits and vegetables. Sulfites may be used in certain processed foods, provided they are listed on labels in quantities higher than 10 parts per million, or when used at all in manufacturing. Processed potatoes and some canned foods may contain sulfites. If your child has asthma or is sensitive to sulfites, be cautious about any processed or prepared food.

Last Updated
Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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