Does My Child Have a Food Allergy?

Some children are born with food allergies and others seem to just wake up one day and be allergic to something. Genetics can play a part but the cause of food allergies often remains a mystery and the number of people affected continues to rise. In order to protect your child, it’s important to be aware of what happens when a child develops a food allergy.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) defines an allergic reaction to food as “an abnormal response to a food triggered by the body’s immune system.” Although many children outgrow food allergies, the NIAID reports that there is currently no cure. About 6 to 8 percent of children under age 4, and 3.7 percent of adults, are affected by food allergies.

Recognizing some of the ways children describe symptoms of an allergic reaction is important. The Food Allergy Research & Education Inc. (FARE) reports that in the U.S., food allergy symptoms send someone to the emergency room every three minutes. Some children, especially those who are very young, “will put their hands in their mouths or pull or scratch at their tongues in response to a reaction. Their voice could change (ex., become hoarse or squeaky) and they could slur their words.”

The following are examples, identified by FARE, as ways a child could be telling you they are allergic to something:

  • "This food is too spicy."
  • "My tongue is hot [or burning]."
  • "It feels like something’s poking my tongue."
  • "My tongue [or mouth] is tingling [or burning]."
  • "My tongue [or mouth] itches."
  • "It [my tongue] feels like there is hair on it."
  • "My mouth feels funny."
  • "There's a frog in my throat."
  • "There’s something stuck in my throat."
  • "My tongue feels full [or heavy]."
  • "My lips feel tight."
  • "It feels like there are bugs in there." (to describe itchy ears)
  • "It [my throat] feels thick."
  • "It feels like a bump is on the back of my tongue [throat]."

Symptoms usually happen several minutes after a food is consumed. They can vary from mild to severe but if several areas of the body are affected, the reaction may be life-threatening. This type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.  

Be on the lookout for the following symptoms: 

 
Skin Problems Breathing Problems Stomach Problems Circulation Symptoms

Hives

(red spots that look like

mosquito bites)

Sneezing Nausea Pale skin

Itchy skin rashes

(eczema,also called

atopic dermatitis)

Wheezing Vomiting Light-headedness
Swelling Throat Tightness Diarrhea Loss of consciousness

Any food is actually capable of causing an allergic reaction but FARE reports there is a list of culprits that are responsible for most. These foods are:

  •          Peanut — NIAID reports this is the fastest growing food allergen.
  •          Tree nuts
  •          Milk 
  •          Egg 
  •          Wheat 
  •          Soy
  •          Fish
  •          Shellfish
  •          Sesame

For fast answers, parents can order a basic food allergen profile test from Milestone Health Direct (MHD). It’s recommended that parents discuss these test results with their physician or allergist.

If you suspect your child is allergic to a food, FARE recommends evaluation, diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical professional, such as a board-certified allergist. You may search the physician directory maintained by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology for recommendations.

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