BR family learns to cope with childhood food allergies

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If you have a child with food allergies, you're not alone. Since the late 90's, the number of kids with the problem has jumped nearly 20 percent and most are under the age of five. Reactions can range from rashes and tummy aches to death.

"Can I do it?" three-year-old Kol Henderson asks his mom.

It's true Kol can put jam on his waffle, but it took his mom to make sure his waffle wasn't made with eggs or wheat flour. Kol is allergic to them - peanuts too.

According to his mom, Keren, Kol "would get a contact rash where he ingested the food he was allergic to wherever part of his skin touched that food."

Kol wasn't tested for food allergies until mom and dad discovered they can cause ear infections. The inflammation and swelling messes up drainage in the inner ear.

Keren says, "That's all it took was removing offending food and my kid doesn't have ear infections."

Food allergies are a big problem for kids these days.  They're almost twice what earlier studies projected and more common in preschoolers like Kol. Peanuts, milk and shellfish top the list of triggers.

Finding out your child has food allergies means the world as you know it must change. Simply put, "Parents of kids with food allergies have to read labels." Karen Henderson says. She follows the experts' advice and scrutinizes everything that goes in her food pantry. She's also had to relearn how to cook without the stuff that trigger Kol's allergies.

One of the biggest challenges facing parents of kids with food allergies is getting other caregivers to take their child's special needs seriously.  Keren had to switch daycares because of it.

"I feel sometimes they think is really just me being an overbearing mother, your sensitive. You just want to control what your child eats."

The fact is almost half of the reactions in children with food allergies happened after they ate something given to them by someone other than their parents.

Dad Kris Henderson says a lot of people just don't understand how serious food allergies are. "It's just tough to explain to people, that you know it's not an insult," said Kris. "It's not we're not trying to be elitist it's just when he eats those foods he turns into a cranky mess."

Kol is luckier than some. His food allergies don't affect his airways, so he doesn't need an injectable epipen to keep him breathing if he has a bad reaction. That's not the case for 40 percent of children with a food allergy diagnosis.

For families like the Hendersons who do everything possible to help their kids avoid problem foods, the good news is the odds of their child having a severe allergic reaction drop dramatically.

Keren Henderson has a blog where she shares recipes and other useful information about childhood food allergies.

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