The effect of common food allergies in kids ranges from causing discomfort to being life-threatening. It is best to be on the lookout and take preventive measures.
As a parent, it is imperative to be watchful of your child’s health. Your child may develop food allergies unknown to you. It is important to educate yourself about common food allergies in kids, as allergies at times can be life-threatening.
What is a food allergy?
When the body reacts abnormally to certain types of food, the condition is known as having a food allergy. Food allergy is different from food intolerance. In the latter, some of the symptoms of food allergy may be present, but the immune system remains unaffected.
Common Food Allergies in Kids: Symptoms and Causes
Each child may experience and display different symptoms of food allergy. The symptoms can start from minutes to hours after ingesting the food. Some of the symptoms can involve:
- Itching or swelling of lips
- Itching or tightness in the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Low blood pressure
Food allergies are caused when a sensitive child has been exposed to the particular food item at least once before the allergy episode, or even could have been exposed through breast milk. The allergic symptoms take place the second time after the child eats/drinks, when Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies react with food to release histamines that lead to breathing trouble, diarrhoea, itching sensation in the mouth, hives, asthma and stomachache.
Food allergies usually affect children less than five years old. Research conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has proved that the amount of food consumed is immaterial: even 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel can lead to severe allergic reactions in highly sensitive folks. Many children do get over their food allergies, but allergy to certain items like fish, peanuts, shellfish and tree nuts may last for a lifetime.
Moreover, some food allergy symptoms may bear a close resemblance to other kinds of medical problems. It is better to consult a paediatrician for an accurate diagnosis.
Common Food Allergies in Kids: Treatments
Prevention of food allergies is not possible. Based on the paediatrician’s advice, foods that are responsible for the symptoms should be avoided at all costs. Even other foods that fall into the same food categories should be avoided.
You must also be careful while breastfeeding your child and not consume foods to which your child is allergic, otherwise even a tiny amount of food allergen may be transmitted through your breast milk and cause a reaction in your child.
Discuss with the paediatrician whether it is advisable to give vitamin and mineral supplements to your child if he or she cannot consume certain foods.
If your child has had a severe allergic reaction, then the doctor may prescribe medication containing the chemical epinephrine. Don’t hesitate to consult the doctor for any questions or information that you require.
At times, after a gap of about six months, some children may be given certain foods to test whether they are still susceptible to allergies. Most kids outgrow their allergies once they reach the age of 3 or 4.
Certain Foods That Cause Common Food Allergies in Kids
A variety of food types can cause food allergies in kids. Some of the food items causing common food allergies in kids are as follows:
- Milk – About 2 to 3% of babies are susceptible to milk allergies, mainly, resistance to cow’s milk which is the main ingredient in most commercial baby food products. If you think your baby is excessively fussy, then please consult a doctor – your baby may be allergic to the protein in cow’s milk. Most kids who show an allergic reaction to cow’s milk are also allergic to goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and soy milk. Ask your doctor for healthy alternatives. It is worthwhile to remember that being allergic to milk is different from being lactose intolerant. Lactose is the sugar present in milk and has no relation to milk allergies.
- Eggs – Egg allergy entails that a child’s immune system reacts to the protein found in the white part of the egg. The body interprets these proteins as invaders and produce histamines to resist these invaders, causing an allergic reaction. The symptoms include swollen or watery eyes, coughing, wheezing and drop in blood pressure. Another reaction that develops is anaphylaxis where it starts with the symptoms mentioned above and then worsens, leading to fatal consequences. This type of allergy appears in very young kids, who nevertheless are expected to outgrow it by the time they are five years old. However, some children may remain allergic to eggs all their lives. It is recommended to introduce eggs to your child by giving them the yolk first, and then the white part after a year. Visit a doctor if the child displays any allergic reactions after consuming the white part.
- Nuts – Allergy to nuts can cause severe anaphylaxis in kids after having started out with itching and breaking out in hives. The most common variety of nuts to which a child is allergic includes peanuts. The best way to prevent this is to avoid consuming any food items containing nuts, and to read the ingredients listed on the food packaging very carefully.
Some of the other foods to which kids may be allergic to, are seafood, shellfish, wheat and soy. In the case of shellfish, a person can get sick simply from touching a shellfish or inhaling the vapours generated when shellfish is being cooked. If you suspect that your child has shown reaction to any type of allergies, see a doctor immediately.
Small kids are prone to infections and allergies; therefore, it is primary to take good care of their health. Awareness and knowledge of food allergies can go a long way in avoiding unpleasant health issues and discomfort to your little ones.
References: Hopkins Medicine