Parents are more sensitive than ever to the dangers of allergies. Each year, allergic reactions put about 30,000 Americans in the emergency room.
Some moms are so concerned about their child acquiring a life-threatening peanut allergy that they avoid peanuts during pregnancy.
They have good reason for worry: Between 1997 and 2002, surveys done by the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai in New York showed the number of children reporting a peanut allergy doubled.
But peanuts aren't the only dangerous allergen. And not all peanut allergies are equal. Allergic reactions can vary from mild irritation - the sniffles or a mild rash - to life-threatening reactions - anaphylactic shock and death.
While allergic reactions vary from person to person and almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, some common eats are more likely to cause severe reactions. The foods most likely to cause problems for children include milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, according to Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., a professor of pediatrics, researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, and author of "Understanding and Managing Your Child's Food Allergies."
"Any of these could be serious," Sicherer says. "Peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish are famous for being severe, but other (food allergies) can be just as severe. And children may have more severe reactions on subsequent exposures, so a reaction may be unpredictable and vary by how much you ate or your state of health at the time.
In addition to watching for allergic reactions at mealtime, parents should also be on the watch for insect allergies. Bees, fire ants, wasps and yellow jacket stings have all been identified as the cause of severe allergic reactions. Between 90 and 100 people die each year from insect bites and stings, according to the CDC.
Drug allergies are the other big culprit behind allergy-related emergency room visits. The most common culprit is Ceclor, an antibiotic.
But just because an allergy causes problems for a young child, doesn't mean they'll spend the rest of their life avoiding a certain food. Many children outgrow milk, wheat, and soy allergies by the time they are three to five years old.
Children are less likely to outgrow a peanut allergy. About 20 percent of kids get over their peanut allergy.
"It's important to be evaluated and reevaluated to assess whether they're outgrowing an allergy," Sicherer says. "But you definitely would not want to give your child a food they might be allergic to. You should work with an allergist."
If your child is experiencing symptoms that could be allergy-related, consult with your pediatrician.