Food allergies in children- an overview
Dr. Arbinder Singal
Pediatric Urologist, MBBS (Gold Medalist), M.Ch (AIIMS, Gold Medalist), DNB, MNAMS
- Posted On April 04, 2017
Be it a rash, itchy skin, or simply redness on your munchkins body parts; there goes a series of self diagnosis. Could it be an insect bite, could it be reaction to the soap, could it be a rash due to clothes, or may be sweat, or a FOOD ALLERGY???
Food allergies and food intolerances are often confused concepts and probably this article will sort out the misconceptions.
Understanding food allergies and food intolerances in children
Food allergy involves the immune system of your child where the body mounts a immune defense reaction to combat any food particles that the body perceivesto be harmful. On the other hand, food intolerance is the body’s inability to digest any food resulting in symptoms of indigestion and an unpleasant feeling.
Food allergy usually stimulates your body to create antibodies to fight against the food allergen (possible food component causing allergy). The process of combating the food allergen can involve the respiratory tract, digestive tract, cardiovascular system and even skin.
Reaction to food allergies in your child may differ from person to person and as such is highly individualistic. Common symptoms of a Food Allergy are as follows:
- Gastrointestinal tract- Stomach distention, sudden onset of abdominal pain after consumption of a particular food, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
- Skin- Itchy red skin with inflammation, swelling of lips, tongue and mouth. Skin reactions are also seen to be more commonly occurring reactions in children.
- Respiratory tract- Running nose, wheezing sounds on breathing, sudden onset of cold and cough, red swollen and itchy nose with shortness of breath in severe cases.
- Cardiovascular system- Sudden onset of chest pain, light headedness and fainting.
- In extreme severe conditions- of food allergies, a food reaction commonly called as anaphylaxis is a combination or more than two signs listed above which may become life threatening and needs early treatment.
In contrast, reaction to food intolerances are usually mild involving burning sensation in the gastric system, belching, bloating, nervousness, loose motions and even headaches.
Here at FitterFly, our child nutrition experts have listed down common food allergens causing food allergies in children.
- Dig deep on Egg allergy: Your child can be allergic to proteins in egg that may cause a skin reaction or a rash. This may simply produce a sense of discomfort on touching, swelling after eating eggs or foods made of eggs. Usually egg white allergy is most commonly seen in children below 5 years of age which disappears as the child grows. But in many cases, it may get severe as age increases.
- Getting ill with Milk allergy: Milk allergy is different from lactose intolerance in children.Milk allergy is one of the most commonly seen food allergies in children in which a child develops signs like severe loose motions, vomiting or sudden breathlessness after consuming milk or milk products. Parents must keep a constant check on children developing these symptoms as it may turn your child sick almost immediately.
- Cut down on nuts and peanuts: Peanut allergy is also one of the most commonly seen allergies in children. Interestingly, other nuts present in your child’s favorite chocolate bar like hazelnut, walnut, cashew nut, almond, tree nuts or pine-nuts may also be hidden enemies of your child. These usually cause skin rashes, redness and swelling around the tongue and lips. Other reactions may affect the respiratory system and stomach for many.
- Beat a wheat allergy: Wheat is the most common staple cereal for many Asian and Indian cuisines and therefore one of the most difficult allergies to live with in terms of compliance on anti-wheat diets. “Gluten”, a protein present in wheat, may cause food allergies in your child pushing them towards developing Celiac disease, different from wheat allergy. Wheat allergy is caused only due to consumption of wheat whereas gluten sensitivity is caused due to consumption of gluten, a protein present in many other cereals other than wheat.Commercially available gluten free products can be picked by many parents to avoid food allergy to wheat. Foods made of wheat like bread, refined wheat flour(maida), biscuits, bakery foods etc must be strictly prohibited from your child’s diet if he has gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy.
- Wish for a no-fish allergy: Many children developing fish allergy may either be allergic to one kind of fish, all fishes or sea foods. This kind of allergy is one of the most severe forms of allergies seen in children as they develop a food reaction called as “anaphylaxis” which may be life threatening. A feeling of severe choking, shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing all may be combined together with digestive discomfort or skin rashes. Parents must note down or keep a food diary to check on allergy caused due to a particular type of fish. It is also essential to avoid fish completely in your child’s diet if your child has previously faced even mild food reactions on consumption of fish.
- Other food allergens: Other food allergens: Soya, mono-sodium glutamate (ajinomoto- a Chinese spice), fruits like strawberries, pineapples, grapes, Bengal gram flour, mushrooms, cheese etc are also some of the commonly detected food allergens that may cause food allergies in children.
It is easy to combat food allergies with vigilant parents and compliant kids!!
Take home message:
- Food allergies and food intolerances cause different food reactions in the body. Unlike food allergy that involves body’s immune system, food intolerances are milder than food allergies.
- Parents must get their child, a food allergy test done if they find any unusual symptoms on food consumption. If detected with food allergy strict diet as per experts advice and food diary must be maintained.
- Parents must teach children to read nutrition labels and prepare them for any food reactions that can occur on consumption of a particular food allergen.
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