Nearly 6 million children worldwide have some form of food allergy. Seeing your child become sick but not understanding why can be scary. If your child has been sick and it doesn’t seem to be passing, food allergies could be to blame.
Allergic reactions to foods have been on the rise in recent decades — both the number of children having more allergic reactions and the number of allergenic foods. Allergy symptoms can range from a bit of itchiness to anaphylactic shock, and some can be lethal if not properly treated. Dr. Margaret Lubega of First Pediatric Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina, is a pediatric food allergy specialist who can help you and your child determine their food triggers and get their symptoms under control.
What are food allergies?
Much like the body raises its temperature to fight off infection, giving you a fever, allergies are the result of the body trying to defend itself against what it perceives as an attack. In effect, the immune system, which fights off infections, considers a food harmful and sets off its defenses against the “attacker.” When this happens, allergy symptoms appear.
Common foods that trigger allergic reactions include dairy, nuts, shellfish, and wheat. Many children who have food allergies end up outgrowing them over time, but some may continue being a problem even later in life. There’s also a difference between being allergic to a food or ingredient and being sensitized to it, which is something testing can help differentiate.
What are common food allergy symptoms?
Food allergies can show up in a number of ways for both children and adults. Common allergic reactions include:
- Itching or irritation of the mouth
- Skin rashes
- Sneezing, coughing, runny nose
- Irritated nasal passages
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen throat, tongue, or lips (anaphylaxis)
- Asthma symptoms
How are children’s food allergies diagnosed?
If you believe your child has food allergies, the first step is a consultation to discuss your child’s diet and which foods may be triggering the allergic reactions. A number of tests can be administered to determine specific food triggers.
- Elimination test: Over a set time, you eliminate certain foods from your child’s diet and note any changes both without the food and when you reintroduce it.
- Skin pricks: Skin prick tests involve using tiny probes with possible allergens to puncture the skin to determine which ones cause allergic reactions.
- Blood tests: For more advanced cases and if other tests are inconclusive, blood tests measure a protein made by your immune system.
Food allergies may be revealed early on in testing, but multiple tests may be needed. Once you have a food allergy diagnosis, Dr. Lubega works with you to develop a treatment plan that includes identifying and avoiding foods that trigger allergic reactions and, for more severe allergic reactions, injectable epinephrine for emergencies.
Do you suspect your child has food allergies? Call us to schedule an appointment, or book one online. Once you have answers and can navigate your child’s food allergies, both you and your child will feel much better.