Are you worried about food allergies in kids? As a parent, it is necessary that you are aware of the culprit foods that cause allergic reactions. And also replace them with healthy and nutritious choices. Firstly, let us understand what is food allergy and what are the common type of food allergies that kids face.
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What is food allergy?
Food allergy is an abnormal/adverse reaction that takes place in the body after the ingestion of certain foods. According to the National Health Survey conducted in 2016, around 6% of children have food allergies. In some cases, they also cause severe and life-threatening reactions. Mostly, parents are not aware of the food allergy in their kids until they get a reaction after giving the food for the first time. Hence, it is really important for every parent to know about the different type of food allergies and their symptoms. (Introducing solids to babies?)
TYPE OF FOOD ALLERGIES COMMONLY FOUND in kids:
Culprit foods that cause different type of food allergies in kids are as follows:
- Tree nuts such as almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews
- Fish and shellfish
The most commonly occurring food allergy in kids is milk allergy. Children below 3 years of age are more allergic to milk than other age groups. The milk proteins i.e. casein and whey proteins present in milk cause milk allergy. If the children are allergic to cow’s milk, they may also have allergic reactions to milk from other animals like sheep, goats. However, milk allergy is not similar to lactose intolerance. Moreover, children are most likely to overcome milk allergy by the age of 16, which is not the same as lactose intolerance.
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Children develop allergic reactions to an egg when their immune system sensitizes the proteins in egg whites or yolks. Children with egg allergy are allergic to either egg white or yolk or sometimes both. Since the egg is used in the preparation of many foods such as bakery products, salad dressings, ice cream, care should be taken to eliminate these foods completely from the diet.
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Peanut and tree nut allergy:
The peanut and tree nut allergy are always confusing. Peanut belongs to the legume family as that of soybeans, peas while tree nut do not. Kids allergic to peanuts may also be allergic to at least one of the tree nuts. Therefore, giving candies, cereals and, baked goods containing peanut and tree nuts to kids is not advisable.
Fish and shellfish allergy:
Fish and shellfish allergy are not as common as the other allergies in kids. A shellfish allergy is caused when body attacks proteins from the crustacean and mollusk families of fish, commonly known as shellfish. In addition, they can cause a serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
Wheat allergy is one of the type of food allergies which occurs as an allergic response to any of the proteins found in wheat. It affects mostly children but they usually outgrow this allergy by the time they reach ten years of age. It is known to be acquired from parents (i.e. if a parent is allergic to wheat, the child may also be allergic). Wheat allergy is different from gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
Soybean, a member of the legume family causes allergy in young children below 3 years of age. Soy allergies are triggered by a protein found in soybeans. However, almost 70% of the children overcome this allergy when they reach adulthood.
What are the symptoms TO food allergIES?
When a particular food that is allergic is ingested into the body, it is considered a foreign particle. The body’s immune system starts producing chemicals called histamines against the food allergens which triggers the allergic responses.
These allergic responses vary from person to person and can appear immediately or after several hours following the food intake. Reactions can be mild or severe affecting one or more parts of the body. This might involve skin (eczema), gastrointestinal system (child stomach pain), cardiovascular system (fainting), and respiratory system (shortness of breath).
The mild symptoms to food allergies include:
- runny nose
- red rashes
- shortness of breath
- child stomach pain
- itchy bumps or hives on the skin
Severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis are also developed in children like:
- chest pain, low pulse
- wheezing and difficulty breathing
- swelling in tongue, lips, and throat
- hives – an itchy and bumped rash
- nausea or vomiting
- turning blue
Tests for food allergies
Pediatrician will prescribe appropriate tests for food allergies. This might include blood test, skin prick test or dietary review. The doctor might conduct an interrogative session to know the child’s symptoms. Like how often the reaction occurs, the onset of symptoms from the time of food intake, and family history for allergies, before running the test.
- Skin prick test: Tests for food allergies by pricking the forearm skin and exposing it to the food allergens. If reddish raised spots or bumps appear within 15 minutes, it means that the child is allergic to that particular food.
- Blood test: To check the presence of IgE antibodies in the blood after the consumption of particular food.
- Dietary review of foods: To understand the symptoms and identify the food allergens.
A food challenge test might also be conducted where the amounts of the food allergen are increased slowly, and the symptoms are noted down by the doctor. This is usually done to check if the child has overcome an allergy.
Treatment for food allergies
The child diagnosed with food allergies will have to eliminate the food causing allergic responses from the diet completely. Parents should always check the allergen labels of all the packaged food products.
Though it is not possible to cure food allergies, but the symptoms can be treated. Antihistamines are administered to kids to treat the symptoms such as itchy rashes, runny nose or child stomach pain. In case the child faces severe allergic symptoms, parents should consult the pediatrician.
Difference between food allergy and food intolerances
Parents are often confused with the terms “food allergies” and “food intolerances”. Food allergy induces an immunological response whereas food intolerances do not. Food intolerance is related to the digestive system and the body finds it difficult to digest a certain food. Both of them might show similar symptoms but the treatment varies. The best way to prevent both of the conditions is to avoid the foods causing allergies.
Some examples of food intolerances are lactose intolerance, celiac disease, etc. In the case of lactose intolerance, the lactose sugar found in cow’s milk is not digested by the body. Celiac disease causes an immune reaction damaging the lining of the small intestine when gluten protein is taken. The symptoms are normally observed over time when the food that is allergic is consumed more. The best treatment for food intolerances is to avoid the foods that cause symptoms mainly child stomach pain. The doctor may also advise different ways to prevent or overcome the reactions.
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