Food allergy in children is common. Recent estimates indicate that an estimated 5.6 million U.S. children have a food allergy, and 40% of those children have more than one allergy. About 42% of pediatric food allergy is potentially severe and the most common severe food allergy is to peanut, tree nut and shellfish.
A food allergy is an abnormal response of the body to a certain food. It is important to know that this is different than a food intolerance, which does not affect the immune system, although some of the same symptoms may be present.
Symptoms of food allergies may include vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, hives, swelling, eczema, itching, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and lowered blood pressure. Symptoms of food intolerance may include colic, blood in your child’s stool and poor growth.
Before having a food allergy reaction, your child must have been exposed to the food at least once before or could also be sensitized through breast milk. It is the second time your child eats the food that the allergic symptoms happen.
There is no medication to prevent food allergy. The goal of treatment is to avoid the foods that cause the symptoms. After seeing your child’s doctor, if food allergy is suspected, an appropriate referral to a general allergist or ENT allergist can be made. Testing can then be done to determine to which foods your child is allergic. Testing is done by skin prick method, a blood test looking for elevated IgE levels to specific foods or a combination of both testing methods. It is then very important to avoid these foods and other similar foods in your child’s diet. If you are breastfeeding your child, it is important to avoid foods in your diet to which your child is allergic. Small amounts of the food allergen may be transmitted to your child through your breast milk and cause a reaction.