Food Allergies in Children

An allergy occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or a substance in food, as a harmful substance. When this happens, the body responds to the situation by releasing antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, to fight the culprit food or food substance (the allergen). Subsequently, every time a person eats that food, the IgE antibodies are alerted and they communicate with the immune system to release a chemical called histamine, as well as other chemicals, into the bloodstream. These chemicals, in turn, cause dripping nose, itchy eyes, dry throat, rashes and hives, nausea, diarrhea, labored breathing, and even anaphylactic shock. Another major concern is that, children with these allergies are more likely to have other related conditions, like asthma.

A common reaction experienced upon consuming a specific food substance, that one is allergic to, is stomach pain, itchy or swollen lips, or diarrhea. A comforting fact is that, many children outgrow their allergies with age. According to the information provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the following foods are usually the ones, children are allergic to:

  • Shellfish including clams, shrimp, lobster, snails, and crab
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts and tree nuts
  • Milk products
  • Wheat products
  • Soy products

These foods account for over 90% of allergic reactions in affected kids.

Milk allergy is one of the most common allergies in children as well as adults. It affects about 2.5 percent of all infants. Children are likely to react to all varieties of milk – cow, goat, and even sheep milk. The major proteins, casein and whey, contained in milk, are usually the elements, the body reacts to. Some children have an inability to digest lactose – a type of natural sugar found in milk. This is called lactose intolerance. Formulas using hydrolyzed proteins may be used for infants, who are allergic to cow’s milk.

The statistics say that 85% of children will outgrow milk allergy by the age of five. However, it increases the chances of a child becoming allergic to beef or developing other food and nasal allergies.

Egg allergy is the second most common type, which affects approximately 2.5 percent of young children. The body might show allergic reactions to the white, yolk, or both parts of the egg. A large number of children outgrow this allergy by the age of five; however, they face a greater risk of developing nasal allergies and asthma in the future.

A word of caution for all parents – if your child has an egg allergy, he/she must not be administered the influenza vaccine.

An allergy to soy will mean that, a child will react to it in all its numerous forms and products. On an average, about 0.3 percent of children suffer from it. Luckily, reactions are usually mild, and children are likely to outgrow it in early childhood.

Wheat allergy, is another immune system response that children commonly outgrow in early childhood. They are also not likely to develop allergies to other cereal grains, such as rice, oat, and barley.

It is one of the most commonly occurring immune allergies and about 0.6 percent of all people are affected by it. Reactions to peanuts are usually severe, and sometimes, may cause life-threatening allergic reactions, especially in children with asthma. As it is a widely seen allergy in adulthood, it is clear, that only few children outgrow this allergy in childhood.

As it brings on such strong reactions, it is advisable for children, with this allergy, to wear a medical alert bracelet, and carry an injectable epinephrine.

Tree Nut
An immune system response to tree nuts, takes place in approximately 0.5 percent of all people. Children are less likely to outgrow it, in comparison to other allergens, and reactions to it can be severe. The chances of a child being allergic to all types of tree nuts are also heightened.

The main irritants among seafood are both fish and shellfish. The allergic reactions to these foods can also be severe and potentially life-threatening. While these two foods aren’t related, they are usually stored together. Children are less likely to outgrow the allergy and continue to show up reactions to these foods even in their adulthood.

Certain foods bring on a severe reaction with life-threatening symptoms. It is called anaphylaxis and it manifests in the form of constriction and tightening of airways, shock, accompanied by a drastic drop in the blood pressure, followed by a rapid pulse, dizziness, lightheadedness, and can eventually lead to loss of consciousness. In these circumstances, emergency treatment is required to save the child’s life.

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