Could Your Child Be Suffering from Food Allergies?
Could Your Child Be Suffering From Food Allergies?
According to Food and Drug Association statistics, approximately 11 million Americans live with food allergies. Up to six percent of children under the age of three may have food allergies. The following information will help you identify symptoms of a possible food allergy and tell you what steps you should take in the event of a significant allergic reaction.
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy occurs when the body recognizes a particular food as harmful. The body will create antibodies to fight the allergen. The next time a person comes in contact with the allergen, the body releases chemicals called histamines to protect itself. These chemicals can affect the respiratory, cardiovascular, skin, or gastrointestinal systems.
It is easy to confuse food allergies with food sensitivities. A food sensitivity typically involves symptoms such as burping, bloating, diarrhea, headaches, and indigestion. Food sensitivities do not affect the immune system and typically are not life-threatening.
The Most Common Food Allergens
It is possible for your child to be allergic to any food; however, the most frequent food allergens include:
• Tree nuts
• Fish, particularly shellfish
Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies
Food allergy symptoms can vary significantly from person to person. The symptoms can vary in severity from mild to life-threatening. These symptoms may appear within a few minutes or even hours after coming into contact with the allergen.
Allergic reactions to food typically affect the following systems:
Respiratory—sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, stuffy nose
Skin—itching, hives, redness, eczema, swelling of the face, lips and tongue
Cardiovascular—fainting or light-headedness
Gastrointestinal—diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
Helping Your Child During an Allergic Reaction
In the event of a mild reaction, over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl may be enough to relieve the itching and swelling. An inhaler may be prescribed for asthma type symptoms. In some instances, the reaction is so severe that immediate emergency treatment is necessary. A severe reaction, called anaphylaxis, can cause the airway to swell shut, blood pressure to drop, unconsciousness, and in some more severe cases causes death.
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in the throat
- Multi-system reaction
If your child has a history of severe allergic reactions, you should talk to your doctor about an epinephrine auto-injector, also called an EpiPen. An EpiPen is an easy-to-use device that can stop a severe allergic reaction in its tracks. Of course, you should seek immediate follow-up medical care any time you have to use the EpiPen.
Preventing Allergic Reactions
Once your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, the focus turns to prevention. The first line of defense is to read food labels. Packaged foods must be clearly labeled if they contain common allergens or are manufactured in factories that produce other foods containing those ingredients. It is important to educate your child about avoiding their allergens. As kids get older, they can be taught how to read labels and to avoid unlabeled foods.
You should work together with your doctor or allergist to develop an allergy action plan for your child. This may include medications to treat allergy symptoms and written instructions for teachers and other caregivers in the event of a reaction. If you suspect your child has a food allergy or sensitivity, call Treasure Coast Urgent and Family Care to schedule an appointment. Our physicians will talk to you about your child’s symptoms and discuss treatment options.