Food allergies can cause everything from a small rash to severe reactions and even death.

Parents and communities are more aware now than ever about the challenges that children deal with when it comes to food allergies. But how do families cope and where do you start when you learn your child has a food allergy?

Understanding food allergies

Almost 8 percent of children in the United States are estimated to have an actual food allergy, according to Dr. Tom Cross of Allergy Partners of Western North Carolina.

A food allergy is one that is caused by an allergic antibody, called IgE (Immunoglobulin E), which is found in people with allergies. Common reactions to foods include hives, eczema, coughing, wheezing, gastrointestinal issues. A severe allergic reaction can cause anaphylaxis, which leads to trouble breathing, light-headedness, sneezing, vomiting and is sometimes fatal, Cross says.

“We are able to test, using an IgE skin test, to determine whether or not someone is truly allergic to a particular food,” he says. “When we find that a child has a food allergy, based on previous consistent reactions and skin testing, we will then make sure that the parents are educated on how to avoid the particular food and how to administer an EpiPen.”

Have an action plan

After being diagnosed with a food allergy, an allergist or immunologist will typically guide families on how to create a Food Allergy Action Plan or Emergency Care Plan.

“It is important for parents, teachers, anyone that is caring for a child with a food allergy to be educated and understand the action plan should a reaction occur,” explains Cross. “The Food Allergy Action Plan that we give to parents includes symptoms to look for along with medication to give based on those symptoms.”

These plans include the food the child is allergic to, treatment and…