Detecting & Diagnosing Food Allergies

Healthy eating is important at every stage of life, but especially so during childhood and adolescence. While chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwiches may be a quick and easy fix for picky eaters, ensuring your kids maintain a balanced diet full of the nutrients and vitamins they need for development is crucial. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring and instead should be an exciting thing for the entire family to explore!

An important part of helping your children discover healthy foods they’ll love is determining if they have food allergies. Our team put together some fast facts on food allergies that can help your kids feel their best 365 days a year!

What are food allergies?

food allergy is an abnormal response from the body to certain foods. Some common food allergies include but are not limited to:

  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Tree Nuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Is there a difference between a food sensitivity and a food allergy?

Yes! Food allergies induce an active response from the body’s immune system and can be life-threatening in certain scenarios. Sensitivities, on the other hand, are less severe in nature and result from the body not being able to process certain foods as well. A great example of a sensitivity is lactose, a common ingredient found in milk. People who are lactose-intolerant may experience irritation and indigestion from drinking milk but are unlikely to encounter any serious symptoms.  

What are some of the most common symptoms of allergies?

Symptoms vary from person to person and depend on the severity of the food allergy. The four main groups of symptoms include:

  • Skin – hives, rashes/eczema, swelling
  • Stomach – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Breathing – sneezing, wheezing, throat tightness
  • Circulation – pale complexion, light-headedness, loss of consciousness

It’s important to know that allergy symptoms can appear very quickly and result from even the slightest contact with an allergen. If your child starts to experience severe signs such as trouble breathing or loss of consciousness, be sure to contact emergency personnel right away.

How do children develop food allergies?  

There’s no definitive cause behind food allergies, though research suggests it’s a mix of both genetic and environmental factors. Be aware of any family history of food allergies so that you can be on the lookout for signs and symptoms in your children. Also, prior to having an allergic reaction, a child must be previously exposed to the allergen. People commonly believe that allergies appear upon initial exposure, but it’s not until at least the second instance of contact that symptoms emerge.

What can you do to treat your kids’ allergies?

The first step is determining if your children have food allergies. Schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss your child’s reactions, how often they occur and the length of time it takes between eating a particular food and the onset of symptoms. They may refer you to an allergist who can conduct more conclusive tests to determine if a food allergy is present. Keep allergens away from your child at all costs by monitoring what they eat and reading all ingredients on food labels. Antihistamines can treat more mild symptoms such as hives and belly aches, though more severe cases may call for carrying epinephrine auto-injectors in case of an emergency reaction. 

Food allergies can be scary for both children and parents, but through education and prevention they can be kept in check.  If your child is experiencing mild allergy symptoms and in need of relief, book an appointment online and visit your local Urgent Care for Children. For more life-threatening situations, contact 911 immediately or visit your nearest emergency room.