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Food Allergies

Food Allergies

Food allergies are among the most common illnesses among children. The umbrella term "allergy" designates a reaction by the immune system to an allergen or irritant, in the case of food allergies, it could be food items such as eggs, milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.

Children with a food allergy can manifest mild symptoms such as skin rashes, vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, bloating and swelling upon ingesting even the smallest amount of that allergen. If your child is allergic to one food, he/she may be allergic to related foods. This phenomenon is known as "cross-reaction". For example, those allergic to peanuts will also have allergies to soybeans, green beans and peas.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Put simply a food allergy involves an attack from the immune system. On the other hand, food intolerance is the body's inability to properly process a certain food. For example, if your child suffers from food intolerance, he/she might not digest it properly and you will notice symptoms such as gas, bloating or diarrhea. Allergic reactions are much more severe and can be life-threatening. A food intolerance is mild in nature and can be prevented by avoiding exposure to a certain food that causes discomfort.

 
Causes

Similar to nasal allergies, food allergies are the immune system's reaction to an allergen in the body. In the case of food allergies, the culprit is always a food protein. When ingested, the body produces antibodies to combat the allergen and releases a chemical known as a "mediator". Those mediators affect the skin, throat, airways, intestines and heart.
Severe allergic reactions can impair your child's breathing and can be dangerous. It is important to keep track of your child's allergies at all times.

 
Foods commonly causing Allergies
  • Peanut butter.
  • Eggs.
  • Fish and shellfish.
  • Milk.
  • Wheat.
  • Soy.
  • Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, chestnuts, filberts / hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts,pistachios, and walnuts).
  • Fruits (bananas, strawberries, cherries, apricots, papayas).
Symptoms
  • Itching, rashes and reddish bumps
  • Swelling of the lips and mouth
  • Belly cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
Severe symptoms that require instant medical care:
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Tightness and choking in the throat
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Losing consciousness
Diagnosis

Your pediatrician can determine if your child is suffering from food allergies. Consult with your pediatrician for a physical exam where he/she will conduct a routine checkup to rule out any physical causes.

Treatment

While having food allergies is not curable, 80% - 90% of children outgrow their food allergies by the age of 5. The best treatment is to avoid foods that cause such allergic reactions.

The doctor may prescribe an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce itchiness and other symptoms.

Remember that food allergies can be severe and you will need to have a plan in the event of a reaction. You must also instruct any person caring for your child on what to do in case of an allergic reaction.

Who Will Outgrow Their Food Allergy?
  • 80-90% of children with egg, milk, wheat and soy allergies will outgrow it by the age of 5
  • Only 1 in 5 children will outgrow a peanut allergy
  • Less than 20% will outgrow allergies to nuts or seafood
Are Food Allergies Inherited?

Like any allergy, a food allergy can be inherited from a parent. However, children often exhibit food allergies to other foods. This means that your child could inherit susceptibility to a food allergy, but not an identical allergic reaction to a certain food.

Food Allergy Statistics
  • Peanut allergy affects 1.2% of children. Approximately 20% of children outgrow it by age 6.
  • Children with a food allergy are two to four times more likely to have conditions such as asthma and other allergies.
  • The prevalence of food allergy among children under the age of 18 increased 18% percent from 1997 to 200.
 
 
 
 

 

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