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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.