Children’s Food Allergies

For children with food allergies, the watchword is vigilance. At meals, at school, and at play the potential for an allergic reaction is ever-present. This Giant Eagle® primer helps parents to maintain an allergen free environment and to minimize the risk of exposure.
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An estimated six to eight percent of children have a food allergy or sensitivity that can cause serious and even deadly reactions. For these kids, even a trace amount of an offending ingredient can lead to discomfort, loss of consciousness or death.


Here are a few guidelines to follow if your child's playmate has a food sensitivity or allergy:

  • Talk with the parents of all children in your play group to learn if there are any food allergies or sensitivities. Let parents know what foods you plan to serve to be sure they are safe. You may need to avoid certain foods for all children to prevent the child with the allergy or sensitivity from contact with the food. 
  • The most common allergies are to dairy foods, peanuts, tree nuts (like walnuts), seafood and fish, eggs, wheat, and soy.
  • Review ingredient lists and warnings on labels. Foods that do not contain peanuts, for example, may be processed in a plant with them. Peanut allergies are serious— some children cannot be in the same room when others are eating peanut products.
  • Stick with basic ingredients like fresh or frozen vegetables, fruit, and unprocessed meat items. Always let kids know what is in a food before you serve it.
  • Gluten intolerance is common. Children with this condition cannot eat breads, cereals or other foods made from grains with gluten (wheat, rye, barley), or that have malt added (from barley). Check our online guide for gluten free products available in Giant Eagle® stores.
  • An intolerance to milk (lactose intolerance) is also common but easier to deal with by avoiding dairy products or serving alternatives like soy or rice milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt products.
  • Even minor cross-contamination can trigger an allergic reaction. Simply cutting sandwiches with a knife that was just wiped of peanut butter can trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Be aware that children without allergies can inadvertently leave food traces on toys, books or other surfaces that could pose a risk for children with allergies. Should an allergic child touch a “contaminated” surface and then touch his or her mouth, an allergic reaction could occur.
  • Do not allow kids to trade food or play and eat at the same time.
  • Make hand washing with soap and water before and after eating a rule. Hand sanitizers alone will not remove traces of allergens!


Symptoms of allergic reactions

Know what to watch for in children with food allergies. The most common food allergy symptoms include:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives, itching or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact the child’s parents immediately and medical personnel if necessary.

In rare cases, food allergies (or insect stings) can cause a severe, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis with constricted, swollen airways, rapid pulse, shock and loss of consciousness.  

Anaphylaxis requires immediate emergency medical attention — call 911!



Contact one of our registered dietitians for answers to your food allergy questions at

Important Physician Advice Disclaimer: The content provided by Giant Eagle®, including but not limited to, website, recipe and health information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician for professional guidance before changing or undertaking a new diet program. Advance consultation with your physician is particularly important if you are under the age of 18, pregnant, nursing or have health problems.