How to Live Safely With Kids' Food Allergies

by Marla Paul

CHICAGO — A new book by a Northwestern Medicine pediatrician offers savvy and comforting advice for family, friends and teachers of kids with life-threatening food allergies, which are on the rise in the U.S.

Ruchi Gupta, M.D., a nationally known researcher in food allergies, writes from the perspective of a pediatrician and a parent of a child with dangerous food allergies. Her book, “The Food Allergy Experience,” tells how to keep a child safe and happy in school, on vacations and at friends’ and families’ homes. She also advises how to tend to the emotional side of a kid, whose food allergies often make her feel different and self-conscious. The book’s chapters include the voices of parents, who share their stories and helpful tips, along with important facts from Gupta.

“It’s comforting and validating to hear the voices of so many other parents who are going through the same thing,” said Gupta, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “It’s isolating and scary to have a child with a life-threatening food allergy. Friends and even family members don’t always understand the dangers and chide you for being overprotective.”

The book discusses treatment, working with your doctor, how to handle visits to friends’ and family members’ homes, dining out, nutrition, the impact on your marriage and relationships, advocating for your child and many other topics. Gupta, whose daughter has a life-threatening allergy to egg, peanut and tree nuts, wrote the book with Denise Bunning, a co-founder of a support group for parents of children with food allergies called Mothers of Children Having Allergies .

Severe food allergies now affect 5.9 million or 8 percent of children in the U.S. The majority of food allergy deaths are due to food eaten outside the home, noted Gupta, who also is director of the program for maternal and child health at Feinberg’s Center for Healthcare Studies.

“More and more families are living with children who have dangerous food allergies,” Gupta said. “Until there’s a cure, we need to show the world how to keep them safe.”