What is food allergy?A food allergy is an abnormal response of the body to a certain food. It is important to know that this is different than a food intolerance, which does not affect the immune system, although some of the same symptoms may be present.
What causes food allergy?Before having a food allergy reaction, a sensitive child must have been exposed to the food at least once before, even through breast milk. It is after the first time your child eats the food that the allergic symptoms happen. At that time, antibodies react with the food, histamines are released, which can cause your child to experience hives, asthma, itching in the mouth, trouble breathing, stomach pains, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
What is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?Food allergy causes an immune system response, causing symptoms in your child that range from uncomfortable to life threatening. Food intolerance does not affect the immune system, although some symptoms may be the same as in food allergy.
What foods most often cause food allergy?Approximately 90 percent of all food allergies in children are caused by the following six foods:
- tree nuts
What are the symptoms of food allergy?Allergic symptoms may begin within minutes to an hour after ingesting the food. The following are the most common symptoms of food allergy. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- diarrhea (with or without blood)
- itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth
- itching or tightness in the throat
- difficulty breathing
- lowered blood pressure
The symptoms of food allergy may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Treatment for food allergy:There is no medication to prevent food allergy. The goal of treatment is to avoid the foods that cause the symptoms. After seeing your child's physician and finding which foods your child is allergic to, it is very important to avoid these foods and other similar foods in that food group. If you are breastfeeding your child, it is important to avoid foods in your diet that your child is allergic to. Small amounts of the food allergen may be transmitted to your child through your breast milk and cause a reaction.
It is important to keep in mind that testing blood for food allergies can be unreliable, especially in infants and young toddlers. Figuring out what foods your child is allergic to therefore involves different strategies, including good observation, trial and error, and process of elimination. It is also important to give vitamins and minerals to your child if he/she is unable to eat certain foods. Discuss this with your child's physician.
For children who have had a severe food reaction, your child's physician may prescribe an emergency kit that contains epinephrine, which helps stop the symptoms of severe reactions. Consult your child's physician for further information.
Some children, under the direction of his/her physician, may be given certain foods again after 3 to 6 months to see if he/she has outgrown the allergy. Many allergies may be short-term.
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