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Identify If Your Child Has Food Allergies

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Richard E. Collins III, MD
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Richard E. Collins III, MD

Did you know that 1 in 13 children have food allergies? Both new parents and parents with young children should be aware of the prevalence of food allergies because of their potential to cause serious reactions.

Food allergies run the gamut from a mild reaction to a severe reaction that could be life-threatening. Yet, determining if your child has a food allergy and narrowing down the foods your child may be allergic to can be tough.

So how can you tell if your child has a food allergy? Start by identifying the symptoms and narrowing down their potential causes. To help, we’ve compiled some of the most important information about childhood food allergies. Learn about common food allergies, their symptoms, and the illnesses confused with kids’ food allergies below.

What Foods Cause Food Allergies?

While allergic reactions might come from an incredible number of proteins, virtually all, 90 percent, come from just eight foods. Numbers 1-3 are the most prevalent.

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree nuts (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews)
  5. Shellfish
  6. Fish
  7. Soy
  8. Wheat

When Do Allergic Food Reactions Show Themselves?

Most allergic food reactions show themselves within the first two hours of consuming the offending allergen – frequently they start within just minutes of eating. Rarely, some children have delayed reactions of six hours or longer. The delay occurs most often in kids with eczema.

Parents, for most of you there is light at the of the tunnel. Many children outgrow their food allergies by the age of five. Estimates are that 80% to 90% of kids outgrow milk, egg, soy, and wheat allergies. Certain allergies are stubborn and will stay with your child during adulthood. Nut allergies and seafood allergies tend to be more permanent, but one in five kids with a peanut allergy become non-allergic.

What Are the Symptoms of Food Allergies?

Your child’s food allergies are activated when your child’s immune system improperly overreacts to a food or a substance in food. This error by the immune system causes an inappropriate protective response. Symptoms range from very mild (hardly noticeable) to life-threatening (anaphylactic shock). Allergic reaction attacks can involve a kid’s skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and the cardiovascular system.

The usual symptoms are one or several of the following:

Breathing Issues

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Repetitive cough

Stomach Issues

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Skin Problems

  • Itchy skin rashes, such as eczema (also called atopic dermatitis)
  • Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
  • Swelling
  • Pale skin

Other Symptoms

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Light-headiness
  • Tightening of the throat, hoarseness, trouble swallowing
  • Shock or circulatory collapse
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Anaphylaxis

Does Your Child Have Food Allergies?

If you are unsure if your child has a food allergy, it’s always a good idea to see an allergist and have them tested. Knowing that your child has an allergy, especially if it is severe, will help you protect your kid from any potential complications from a reaction.

What Illnesses Are Commonly Confused with Food Allergies?

Not every child who has a reaction has a food allergy. There are other common situations that can easily be confused for an allergy. Below are a few to watch out for.

Drug effects – Certain ingredients, such as caffeine found soda or candy, can make your child shaky or restless

Skin irritations – Often thought to be a sign of a food allergy, but, in most cases, this symptom is caused by acid found in items such as orange juice or tomato.

Food Poisoning – Causes vomiting or diarrhea, however, these symptoms are likely to be caused by bacteria in undercooked food or spoiled food.

Diarrhea – Small children can have diarrhea that is often associated with too much sugar. Orange juice and other fruit drinks are common villains.

How to Manage Your Child’s Food Allergy

The most effective way to avoid reactions to known food allergens is to avoid serving them to your allergic child. Always carefully check the food ingredient labels before bringing something home. Learn all the pertinent foods to avoid and their interchangeable terms. The Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center began serving the Charlotte area in 1952. Each physician in the practice is board-certified and committed to educating our patients and their parents to improve the patient’s quality of life while maintaining our high standards of care and expertise.

Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center help patients breathe, live and ultimately thrive by effectively treating allergy and asthma challenges. Our practice has 15 locations for our patient’s convenience. Contact us through our online contact form for an appointment at an office near you.


Try our new Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Guide

A curated list of Charlotte area restaurants with allergy-friendly menus, making it easier for individuals with food allergies to enjoy dining experiences without worry

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