Lifewatch: Allergies

CHICAGO -- An increase in food allergies is prompting more and more families to change the way they eat.

Allergies aren't new, but the number of cases is on the rise.

The Batson's learned not to bake with nuts when Sean turned one.

"We gave him just the small piece of cake from his birthday cake," said mother Jennifer Batson.

And like any toddler, Sean smeared the cake on his face.

"Everybody's supposed to laugh. He started blowing up and swelling, getting hives," said Jennifer.

Sean survived his allergic reaction, but every year, an estimated 150 children and adults in the United States die from food allergies.  Another 30,000 need life-saving treatment.

Now, the number of allergy cases is getting worse.  Cases of pediatric peanut allergies doubled in a recent five year period.

According to Dr. Jennifer Kim, Sean's allergist, they can dramatically change a child's life.  The wrong food at a sleepover, and the hives or swelling can start.

Without immediate treatment, there's difficulty breathing, or even loss of consciousness.  According to Dr. Kim, the emergency medicines patients must carry can fail 10% of the time.

"Avoidance is the key because there is no cure. There is a life threatening reaction that can happen with an accidental exposure," said Dr. Kim.

So, Jennifer Batson checks every label, and recently, a new law required food manufacturers to identify allergy causing ingredients in the product.

But, it's not fail safe.

For example, the law doesn't apply to dog food, which has eggs in it.

"I saw the dog licking him and he had all these hives going up and down his face," said Batson.

Sometimes the only way to find out if you have a certain allergy is by learning the hard way.  But, if you'd rather not experiment on your own, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

Reported by Kristy Ondo