Doctors' Notes

What You Need to Know About Food Allergies

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via  We promise to keep it anonymous. 


Question: My 6-year old-daughter was just diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy.  I am trying to learn as much as I can now about food allergies, but I’m terrified when she is at school and on playdates. What can I do to ensure that she is safe?

Dr. Karla says:

You are not alone.  It is estimated that 1 out of every 13 children has a food allergy and there are plenty of mothers trying to figure out how to keep their children safe, just like you.

One of the most important things you can do in the management of food allergies is avoidance. To know whether a food contains peanuts or other food allergies, you have to read all labels.  Fortunately, the law now states that manufacturing companies must clearly list whether a food has food allergens in it or not. Some foods also have warning labels for food allergies, such as “may contain peanuts or tree nuts.” These foods might have been made on machines or in factories that also made other foods with peanuts or tree nuts. Doctors usually recommend that people with a peanut or tree nut allergy avoid these foods as well.

When your daughter is at school, or under the supervision of others, make sure everyone charged with your daughter’s care is aware of the allergy and they do what they can to help her avoid it. This is where creative ideas like comedienne and actress Kym Whitley’s become helpful.  We spoke to Kym Whitley, star of the reality show Raising Whitley about her struggle with her son Joshua’s food allergies on the Urban Housecall radio show.  She has developed a unique way to keep her son safe and raise awareness about food allergies.


Dr. Rob says:

Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the hospital for emergency treatment.  This amounts to more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year. Typical food allergy reactions can vary widely, ranging from mild to severe. These include:

*Itchy mouth and/or tongue

*Hives, which are raised, red patches of skin that are itchy

*Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

*Puffiness of the face, eyelids, ears, mouth, hands or feet

*Swelling of the tongue

*Trouble breathing, wheezing or coughting

*Feeling dizzy or passing out

Anaphylaxis, a potentially deadly reaction that threatens proper breathing and blood circulation may also occur as a result of a severe food reaction.  Should the unfortunate happen, and your child is exposed to peanut, make sure you have the proper medication on hand.  This is critical, as a severe life-threatening reaction can take place in a matter of minutes.

Severe reactions are usually treated with a medicine called epinephrine.  It comes in a device called an auto-injector, and is also commonly known as an “Epi-Pen.”  When a diagnosis of severe food allergies is made, the doctor will often prescribe an auto-injector for you to keep at all times and use at the first signs of an allergic reaction.

If a severe allergic reaction is suspected, or epinephrine is ever used, always call 9-1-1 right away and seek medical attention.

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on twitter @urbanhousecall!