Identifying and Living with Your Child’s Food Allergies

May 15 • 2015

As many as six million children in the United States suffer from some kind of food allergy. Discovering these allergies in children can be difficult, and once they are discovered it can be a struggle to adjust their diet – especially if the allergy encompasses a wide range of necessary nutrients.

What Kind of Foods Cause Allergies?
Food allergies can be caused by any kind of food, but the most common causes are:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts (including walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and cashews)
  • Wheat
  • Fish and shellfish

How Do I Know If It’s a Food Allergy?
Food allergies occur when your body reacts against harmless protein found in foods. These reactions often happen shortly after the particular food is consumed and can range in severity. One of the main issues is that many other symptoms and illnesses are often wrongly attributed to food allergies. Because of this, it is important for parents to know the warning signs. If your child is experiencing the symptoms below, they may have a food allergy:

  • Hives
  • Itchy skin rashes
  • Swelling
  • Sneezing, wheezing, or throat tightness
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Pale skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Light-headedness

If multiple areas of the body are affected by the allergy at once, this is a sign of anaphylaxis, a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction. It is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Adjusting Your Lifestyle
When a child has a food allergy, this can mean lifestyle changes for everyone in the family. Meal planning can require special care and trips out for meals may become more complicated since there are no medication options that can prevent food allergies. Avoiding the allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction, but if an allergic reaction does occur, it is important to have the right medications on hand at all times. Ask your doctor to write out a specific plan for how and when to use the prescribed medication and share it with your family members. Be sure your child is always wearing his medical identification so emergency responders are immediately aware of his food allergies. Having a plan in place to manage food allergies in various situations, including home and school environments, is an important process. You can find out more about how to develop these plans here.

While some food allergies can last a lifetime, many are outgrown during early childhood. Speak with your child’s doctor or allergist about what tests can be performed to track food allergies and how you can develop a personalized plan for your family’s needs.