Out of the many health problems among children, food allergy affects a considerable percentage of children worldwide. It happens when your body’s immune system reacts to certain foods which they mistakenly see as a threat and release chemicals to combat them. Those symptoms are known as an allergic reaction and the food that causes them are known as the food allergens.
How often does it occur?
The answer varies from child to child. Usually the symptoms can be seen in a few minutes to a few hours. In rare scenarios, it can take up to a few days or weeks.
What are the most common food allergens?
Children can be allergic to different food allergens. Below are the list of the most common food allergens:
- Tree-nuts (like pistachio, cashew, walnut)
- Fish and Shellfish (like lobster, shrimp)
- Eggs and Soy
What are the symptoms of a food allergy?
The symptoms can vary from mild to severe and in most cases, as the children grow up, their bodies will outgrow most of these food allergens on their own without any medication.
Food allergies can affect one or different parts of the body like the skin, respiratory organs, digestive tract, etc. Skin problems include rashes and itchiness. Respiratory disorders include a runny nose, sneezing and shortness of breath.
For many, it is difficult to differentiate between food allergy and food intolerance. Food intolerance is not caused by the reaction of the immune system and it generally includes burping, headache, vomiting etc. It is not life-threatening.
What are the consequences of a food allergy?
Consequences of the food allergy can be both physical and mental. Physically, it can cause redness on the skin, pain in the belly, dizziness, runny nose, sneezing – to name a few. Mentally, it can cause depression, anxiety or panic attacks.
How is food allergy diagnosed?
Your family doctor or paediatrician is the best person to diagnose the food allergy. Be ready to answer the questions put-forth before you like:
- What are the symptoms shown?
- How often does it occur and how long does it last?
- What kind of foods are taken before the symptoms are shown and the time gap between them?
- Your family’s medical history and list of foods to which you are allergic?
After diagnosis, your doctor may refer to an allergist if needed. An allergist will perform a blood test and skin test to detect the food allergens. Furthermore, more tests may be employed depending on the condition.
Is there any treatment for food allergy?
Though there is no cure for food allergy, you can sketch out a treatment plan for your child nevertheless. The main plan is to keep the food allergens at bay even though your child might have a sweet tooth for it. The paediatrician can prescribe some medicines for them to take in case of severe allergic reactions.
Any prevention strategy?
Your little one would get the food allergy only when they consume that particular food. So, all you can do is create a list of the food items to which they are allergic and stop giving it to them.
Always keep an eye on the food you give to your children. Even more important, ensure you make any other caretakers (your child’s grandparents, babysitter, daycare worker, etc) aware of their allergies.
Being a responsible and loving parent, it is understandable that you always wish for your children’s good health. And by now, you must have got an idea about food allergy in children, what to do and not to do and how to react if your children experience it.
Always be alert – our childrens’ health depends on it!