Food allergies in children: your detailed guide

If you're the mother of an infant, your day must include continuous crying, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, or digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea. Many must have told you that this is normal and that babies are like this in the first few months of their lives. While there may be several reasons for these problems, food allergy might be one. Therefore, in this article, I'll clarify everything new mothers need to know about food allergies in children to protect them and get the appropriate treatment.

أخصائية حساسية طعام
Dana Al-Salah
Published on:Aug 11th 2023 |Updated on:Mar 10th 2024
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 What is a food allergy?

It is the reaction of the immune system reacts to a particular food component, usually a protein. The immune system considers this component as a foreign body, just as it deals with viruses and bacteria, and begins to defend itself and combat this foreign body. During this, various reactions appear in the body; some are mild, and some are severe.

Symptoms of Food Allergies

Food allergy symptoms may manifest as:

Skin Symptoms

  • Skin rash.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Skin redness.

Digestive System Symptoms

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Colic.
  • Diarrhea.

Respiratory System Symptoms

  • Severe cough.
  • Swelling of the throat and blocked airway.
  • Breathing difficulty.

Circulatory System Symptoms

  • Paleness.
  • Lethargy.
  • Bluish skin.
  • Drop in blood pressure.
  • Rapid heartbeat.

It's worth noting that the body's reaction can differ from one person to another and can also change within the same individual.

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is the scariest symptom. This shock can be caused by any food, not just nuts and peanuts, as some believe. And it requires immediate medical intervention and an injection of adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, to stop the symptoms. After properly administering the shot, immediately transfer your child to a hospital for proper treatment. It's important to note that going to the hospital after receiving the lifesaving dose of adrenaline is for monitoring and ensuring that no symptoms or complications arise, not because the adrenaline shot is harmful and requires treatment. The injection is safe for most people, and one should not hesitate to administer it during an anaphylactic shock; every second counts.

Parents must train on administering this injection using the training syringe usually sold with the medicated injection. So, if they ever need to use it, it's not their first time with the child.

I want to share a personal anecdote supporting this injection's safety. Like any mother with allergic children, I've always wondered what it feels like to get this shot if I ever need it for one of my children. While talking to a friend and trying to prove to her that the injection is safe and she shouldn't be afraid to give it to her child, if necessary, I injected myself using the training injection I always carry; this training injection doesn't contain the medication. I accidentally used the actual injection and received an adrenaline dose without realizing it. The only side effect was a laughing fit at my mistake 😊.

 Are Allergies Hereditary?

There may be genetic factors that increase the likelihood of various food allergies. However, there isn’t yet a test to detect a specific gene responsible for passing allergies to children.

How Common Are Food Allergies in Children?

There has been a 50% increase in various food allergy cases in the past ten years. Scientific and medical research has proved no specific reason for this significant rise. However, several hypotheses exist, such as the "hygiene hypothesis," suggesting that excessive cleanliness reduces surrounding germs, making the immune system more sensitive to external factors. Also, children spend less time playing outside, interacting with nature, and dealing with pets. Additional factors include increased pollution, climate change, and reliance on processed goods rather than natural options.

Diagnosis

If someone undergoes various allergy tests, they will likely show an allergy to something since the accuracy rate of these tests ranges between 40% and 60%. Despite their importance in diagnosis, tests can't be the sole source for diagnosing food allergies. Observing symptoms and reactions to allergens are as important. Additionally, it's crucial to consult an allergist or immunologist who will conduct a comprehensive assessment to reach a precise diagnosis and establish a plan to manage the allergy.

Breastfeeding and Allergies

Symptoms of allergies might appear in breastfed babies if the mother consumes food the baby is allergic to. These symptoms may not manifest during breastfeeding but may occur later when introducing solid foods. It's uncertain how allergens in the mother's diet affect breast milk, as this varies from one child to another. It's worth noting that mother's milk helps strengthen immunity and supports the microbiome, gut health, and the child's overall health.

Infants Allergies

The most common food allergy among infants is cow's milk protein allergy. Studies have shown that 50% of cow milk allergy infants also react to soy. Other notable food allergies include allergies to eggs and wheat. It's worth mentioning that most infant allergies do not cause anaphylactic shocks and usually fade by the age of one, two, or three years.

Symptoms of Cow's Milk Allergy in Infants

  • Acid reflux.
  • Mucus in stools.
  • Traces of blood in stools.
  • Continuous crying.
  • Colic.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Refusal to feed.
  • Persistent vomiting, especially after consuming milk.

Prevention

Some recent studies have shown that introducing allergenic foods at an early age, before the age of one, may reduce the risk of developing food allergies. However, it's essential to observe symptoms and cease giving any food causing worrying symptoms.

Treatment

There isn't yet an approved treatment for food allergies in children and infants. Several treatments are still undergoing laboratory and clinical trials, awaiting approvals. The current approach to managing food allergies in infants and children is to avoid allergens and follow an allergy-friendly diet. Following such a diet can be challenging and requires careful planning. Therefore, expert guidance is crucial for the success of this diet.

A Final Word

I want to tell new mothers to trust their instincts and never ignore any symptoms they notice in their infants. Consulting doctors and specialists and obtaining information from credible sources is crucial, rather than solely relying on the experiences of other mothers. A food allergy might manifest as a mild skin rash but can also lead to anaphylactic shock or other severe symptoms. Never underestimate these allergies. However, there's no need to be terrified of food; the simple solution is to avoid allergens.

 

Learn about Benefits of healthy eating for the entire family

 

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أخصائية حساسية طعام
Dana Al-Salah Food Allergy Coach

Dana is a mother of three who has personally experienced food allergies with her children. This experience motivated her to specialize in food allergy nutrition and cognitive behavioral therapy to help parents overcome this challenge. She founded Food Allergy Network Jordan and Allerliving for food allergy education and training. She is highly passionate about her work and believes it is her mission in life to increase awareness, guide, and help the community understand Food Allergies. She holds several awards for her hard work and dedication and is a member of several local and international organizations related to food allergy.

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