Food allergies

Be alert, be safe

People are much more aware of food allergies and their risks today than ever before. Many schools have careful guidelines about what students can and can't bring in their lunches. Products with allergen-free claims are now commonly found on grocery store shelves. Even with that heightened awareness, parents need to be alert to the risks of food allergies and intolerances-for the safety of their own kids and others.

Did you know...

Visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website and download Common Food Allergies - A Consumer's Guide to Managing the Risks. You can also check out the allergy section of Health Canada's It's Your Health website.

What are the risks and symptoms of food allergies?

Allergic reactions can change very quickly from mild to severe -- in the worst cases causing anaphylactic shock or death. Because an allergic reaction can happen fast and without warning, watch for the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • A drop in blood pressure, rapid heart beat or loss of consciousness
  • Flushed face, hives or a rash, or red and itchy skin
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue
  • Anxiousness, distress, faintness, paleness, weakness
  • Cramps, diarrhea or vomiting

Most common food allergens:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts/pignolias, pistachio nuts, and walnuts)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Seafood (including fish, shellfish and crustaceans)
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Sulphites
  • Mustard

How to avoid food-based allergic reactions

Right now there is no cure for food-based allergies: the only way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid the specific foods responsible. As a parent, keep in mind that severe allergic reactions aren't predictable. Your child may have a mild reaction one time and a severe one the next -- or vice versa.

Did you know...

You can sign up to receive Canadian Food Inspection Agency notices whenever there's a food-related recall or allergy alert--by email or RSS.

What's an epinephrine autoinjector?

The emergency treatment for a severe allergic reaction is an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). Trade names for epinephrine autoinjectors include EpiPen®, Twinject® and Anapen®. If your child has a known food allergy, make sure he or she has an epinephrine auto-injector at all times and has been shown how to use it properly.

If a severe reaction occurs:

  • Administer the epinephrine according to the auto-injector's directions as soon as serious symptoms appear.
  • Follow up with further treatment and observation in a hospital emergency room.
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