For most of us, milk does a body good. And a PB&J sandwich is our lunch of choice. We don't obsess about the ingredients in our cookies, fast food or other stuff we eat.
But nearly 5 percent of kids have to worry about everything they put in their mouths. They have food allergies.
Kids who do have food allergies may sit next to you at lunch in school or at snack time in camp. You might tease them because they always bring their own food and don't share. Maybe you think they're weird because they turn down candy bars or pizza. If you can learn what it's like to have a food allergy, you won't think they're so weird. And that'll help everyone feel better.
Some kids are allergic to peanuts, eggs, wheat, fish or milk products. Take 11-year-old Avram P., who is severely allergic to milk products (yogurt, cheese, ice cream and lots of other foods) and poultry (chicken, turkey and duck). The last time Avram had milk, as a baby, he passed out. If he eats poultry, he throws up.
Some kids are so allergic, their reactions can lead to anaphylactic shock. Their throat swells shut, their blood pressure drops, and it can be fatal. For some kids, just smelling a peanut can lead to shock.
For Avram, as with all kids with food allergies, it's important to know which ingredients are safe. "I know what to stay away from," he says.
Eating out can be tough, if a peanut-allergic kid orders french fries and the cook doesn't mention that they're fried in peanut oil, the kid can get very sick -- or even die.
But one of the hardest things about having a food allergy, Avram says, is "when you see everybody else eating something and you know you can't have it."
The food he'd like to eat the most? Pizza. But he can't. And sometimes other kids tease him. "I try to ignore it. It's a little bit hard."
Know kids with a food allergy? Then:
* Don't focus all your attention on the allergy. Get to know the kids for who they are, not what they can't eat.
* If you see them having an allergic reaction, quickly ask how you can help. They may need their medication. Don't hesitate to notify the adult nearest you.
For more info, call the Food Allergy Network at (800) 929-4040.
Fast allergy facts
* Eight foods cause 90 percent of all food allergic reactions. They are milk, eggs, wheat, peanut, soy, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.
* Most children outgrow their allergy, although an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts is considered lifelong.
* Allergic symptoms can begin within minutes to an hour after ingesting the food.
* Eating even a bit of the offending food or being kissed by someone who has just eaten it can cause a fatal reaction for severely allergic people.
* There is no cure for food allergies.
c 1997 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune, Inc. Pub Date: 08/05/99