PHOENIX -- Now that the kids are back in school, you have less control over what they're eating and absolutely none when it comes to what's in other kids' lunchboxes.
For kids with food allergies, that can be a potentially dangerous -- even deadly -- situation.
With that in mind, Dr. Art Mollen says it's essential for children to have what he calls an action plan.
"Parents need to prepare if they [the kids] do have a specific allergy," he explained.
Mollen said there are basically eight foods or food groups that account for about 90 percent of all allergic reactions, especially in kids. They are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts ( i.e. almonds and cashews), fish (i.e. bass or cod), shellfish (i.e. crab, lobster and shrimp), soy and wheat.
It's not enough to simply avoid these foods, although that is the first and most effective line and of defense.
Parents, however, need to take it a step further, and make sure they and their kids are prepared should the worst happen.
"Children ought to have what's called and EpiPen®," Mollen said.
An EpiPen® is a prescription device that contains measured does of epinephrine, which is commonly used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions like those that are possible with food allergies.
"[With an EpiPen®, kids] can self-inject themselves if they were to be exposed to an allergen," Mollen said.
Symptoms of a potentially dangerous allergic reaction include an itchy mouth, hives or a rash, swelling of the face, lips of tongue, abdominal pain, diarrhea or nausea, dizziness and lightheadedness, wheezing, sneezing, closing of the airways, general itching, racing or weak pulse, and number or tingling of the lips or tongue.
"If you suddenly start to feel some of these symptoms, that's when you need to use this EpiPen®," Mollen said.
In addition to keeping and EpiPen® on hand at all times, Mollen also suggests wearing a MedicAlert bracelet to let others, including first responders and emergency crews, know that the allergy exists.
Finally, a support systems is critical. Friends -- and in the case of kids, their parents -- need to know about food allergies and the potential dangers they pose. In some cases, the allergy is so severe that the mere smell of a certain food can trigger a reaction.
"The most insignificant amount of any type of protein product could potentially cause you [or your child] to have an allergic reaction," Mollen said. "These anaphylactic reactions are life-threatening."
For more information on Dr. Mollen visit www.mollen.com or call 602-264-9806.