According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), as many as 15 million Americans currently have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under the age of 18. Additionally, approximately 30 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food. While most parents of kids with food allergies are well versed in what foods contain which allergens, what the might not know is that some kids multi-vitamins and supplements may contain harmful allergens. Here we will look at what is really in your child’s multi-vitamins and how to best choose supplements that are safe for kids with allergies.
What is in Kids Vitamins?
When you pick up that colorful bottle of multi-vitamins in all likelihood you probably don’t have the time to read the entire label. Honestly, most of us probably don’t. We often take peace in knowing that someone is making sure what goes into our kids vitamins are safe and healthy, right? Wrong! Many parents are frightened to learn that no one, not even the FDA is paying full attention to the ingredients in adult AND children’s vitamins and supplements. This means that we have to rely on the manufacturer to accurately convey what is inside those little bottles.
Once we know this, many of us take notice and start to read the ingredient lists. You will see a vitamin label that outlines the vitamin dosage and what percentage of the daily recommendation is met with each chewable or gummy. If you continue down the list you will see a section labeled “Other Ingredients”.
What are the Other Ingredients in My Kid’s Vitamins?
It is the portion of the label “other ingredients” that parents of children with allergies must pay careful attention to. While all parents should note this section for artificial ingredients, like colors, preservatives and flavors, there are potentially hazardous ingredients for kids with allergies. What food allergy parents need to know is that some vitamins may have trace or even larger amounts of the thing that can harm your child.
Are There Really Allergens in Vitamins?
Unfortunately, yes – many major brands of children’s vitamins have some amount of one or more of the major allergens, like milk, egg or soy. This comes as a shock to many parents as so many pediatricians recommend a multi-vitamin to round out what might be missing in ours kids diets as a result of their food allergies. Studies have shown that giving kids with food allergies a supplement is a safe and effective way to meet their nutritional needs.
What happens when the supplement has ingredients like lactose, egg, soy, gluten, corn syrup, and several other common food allergies? One study published in 2011 investigated the presence of gluten in twenty-one common dietary supplements from the national market. They used what is called an immunochromatographic assay to check these supplements for gluten. The test showed the presence of gluten in 23.8 percent of the samples being studied, including vitamins, minerals, plant extracts and probiotics supplements. For kids with gluten intolerance or Celiac’s disease it can be downright dangerous.
Why Are They There?
Now that we know these unwanted ingredients are in some of our vitamins we start to question why they are there. Do they make the vitamin better or safer? Are they necessary to the fundamentals of what the vitamins are supposed to do? Vitamin manufacturers add a range of fillers for several reasons. It may be for quicker, easier production, it may make the vitamin more visually appealing and they may increase the shelf life of the supplement. Unfortunately, when you are talking about food allergies these minor upgrades are not worth the potential reaction. If trace amounts of soy or corn are helping a vitamin sit on shelves until you buy them months after manufacturing, this can lead to serious health risks for your child.
How Can I Find a Multi-Vitamin that is Safe?
Now that your alert level has been raised and you are questioning whether you should even give your food allergic child vitamins we have some answers. While the FDA does not monitor the ingredients housed in supplements, all manufacturers of supplements must thoroughly outline their ingredients on a mandatory label. At the top of this label they will outline all of the good, healthy ingredients like vitamins and minerals. It is the lower portion of the label that will give food allergy parents the valuable information they need to keep their child safe and healthy.
Look for the part of the label titles “other ingredients”. Here you will look for all of the same ingredients you might be trying to avoid in a loaf of bread or pasta. If your child has a milk allergy check for not just milk, but also whey, whey protein, casein and lactose. There are many different names for gluten and wheat, but fortunately if your child has this allergy you can probably spout them off in cue. Be sure to check the label for any of these gluten-equivalent terms.
The best way to ensure the safety of your food allergic child is to opt for a supplement that puts ingredient safety at the top of their list of priorities. Choose one that clearly states it is free of preservatives, artificial ingredients, and all other allergies. This will give you peace of mind in knowing that you are keeping your child functioning at their best.
What food allergy parents need to know is that some vitamins may have trace or even larger amounts of the thing that can harm your child.