Kids and holiday food allergies

December 3, 2010 3:17:55 PM PST
The holiday season is a time for eating, but doctors are warning parents to watch what their children eat.

Some festive foods may have hidden ingredients that could be dangerous if kids have allergies to nuts.

Seven-year-old Michael Viggiano is allergic to walnuts. His windpipe almost closed when he ate his first one. However, could he recognize other nuts in the tree nut family?

Michael's knowledge was no different from any of the allergic kids in the study, who could only identify only a third of nuts.

It was one thing to identify a whole nut or a nut in the shell, but we devised another real world test for Michael.

Allergist Dr. Jonathan Oppenheimer ground up four different nuts. Michael could not tell one from the other. Neither could I.

"That's a walnut, a hazelnut, a pecan and a pecan. The take home message is that if you can't identify nuts, don't eat them," said Dr. Oppenheimer.

Moreover, you can miss hidden nuts in cakes and cookies. Even a graham cracker crust could contain nuts. Some baked good labels say "Allergy warning: made in a facility that uses nuts."

Other hidden nuts - peanut butter in chili to thicken it and in eggrolls to make them sticky; tree nuts in salads, in breads and cereals, and even in chocolates.

Emergency needles contain adrenaline, which can be self-injected to stop an attack, and bracelets can alert strangers of your allergy. Do not be embarrassed at a holiday party to tell the host you are nut-allergic.

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