Food Allergies in Children

Peanut allergy

As a parent, it’s scary to learn that our kids have a food allergy. If we’re lucky they are mild, but sometimes it can be a life-threatening situation called anaphylaxis which requires immediate medical attention.

Although it’s sometimes clear what they are reacting to, often it’s a hunt to ID what is affecting them. Once you see a reaction, note what they recently ate or were in contact with and head to the doctor to have some tests run. They will then be able to clearly identify their allergy.

Symptoms of a food allergy:

  • Skin problems
    • Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
    • Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
    • Swelling
  • Breathing problems
    • Sneezing
    • Wheezing
    • Throat tightness
  • Stomach symptoms
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
  • Circulation symptoms
    • Pale skin
    • Light-headedness
    • Loss of consciousness

Allergies are caused by antibodies that the body’s immune system produces, which react to a component of a particular food and then release chemicals that cause allergic symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itching. Children may also experience stomach pain, bloating, cramping, diar­rhea, skin rashes, and swelling. Although these reactions can occur almost im­mediately after consuming these foods, they may be delayed for hours or sometimes even days.

There are other illnesses that can be confused with food allergies, such as food poisoning, reactions to acidic food, or too much caffeine or sugar.  Some food-related illnesses are called an intolerance, or a food sensitivity, rather than an allergy. Lactose intolerance, for example, is when a person has trouble digesting milk sugar (lactose), leading to stomachaches, bloating, and loose stool.  It’s not a food allergy because the immune system is not what is causing the problem.

Once you learn that your child is allergic to certain foods or allergens, it’s important to sit them down and explain that these certain foods or environments are not healthy for their little bodies.

Your pediatrician or allergist will probably recommend that the item is removed from your child’s diet, including products that contain the item as an ingredient.  It’s best to promptly remove the items from the home and notify their school, sitters, and friends and families who spend a lot of time with them. You doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to handle any and all situations.

Life comes with challenges and though this can be a big one, with some education and information it’s something that you can handle.