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What is a food allergy?

A food allergy happens when the body reacts against harmless proteins found in foods. The reaction usually happens shortly after the food has been eaten and can vary from mild to severe. Food allergies can happen at any age, but occurs most often in infants and children younger than 6 years. Fortunately, food allergies are often out-grown during early childhood. It is estimated that 80% to 90% of egg, milk, wheat, and soy allergies go away by 5 years of age. Some allergies are more persistent though, such as peanut, nut, and seafood allergies. Some of the most common foods that cause food allergies are:

  • Cow/goat milk                                 
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat                                               
  • Nuts from trees (ex. Walnuts, cashews, etc.)
  • Fish (ex. Tuna, salmon, cod)
  • Shellfish (ex. Shrimp, Lobster)

If you think that your child may have a food allergy, talk with your pediatrician.

What should you look for?

  • Skin problems (ex. hives, rashes, swelling)
  • Breathing problems (ex. sneezing, wheezing, throat tightness)
  • Stomach symptoms (ex. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Circulation symptoms (ex. pale skin, light-headedness, loss of consciousness)

Often times though, some food-related illnesses or intolerances are confused with food allergies. Food intolerances, unlike allergies, are not caused by the immune system but the body’s trouble in digesting foods. Lactose intolerance is a good example. When someone who is lactose intolerant ingests milk sugar, called lactose, the body cannot digest it properly and leads to stomach aches, bloating, and loose stools. Food-related illnesses include:

  • Food poisoning
  • Drug effects
  • Skin irritation
  • Diarrhea

How do I treat a food allergy?

If you know your child has a food allergy, the first and best thing is to try to avoid them in the first place. If you aren’t sure of what food’s your child is allergic to, there are blood tests and also a skin prick or scratch test that can help you to determine what food is causing the allergy. If your child is suffering from a severe reaction, the main medicine used to treat it is epinephrine. This drug is given by injection and reverses symptoms such as throat swelling and wheezing, as well as helps improve blood circulation. However, if several areas of the body are affected, the reaction may be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Additional treatments and expert evaluation may be necessary, so call 911 or go to the emergency department. Because symptoms can reoccur, it is advised that you stay in the emergency department for at least 4 hours after the symptoms have disappeared. If your child is suffering from milder form of food allergy, antihistamine medicine can be used to help relieve such symptoms such as itching and rash, and asthma medicine can be used if there is wheezing.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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