What are food allergies in children? A food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body to a certain food. The reaction usually happens shortly after a food is eaten.
All kids are known to be picky eaters. Most of them will certainly not like green vegetables. They have no taste for seemingly staple healthy food. As parents or caretakers, we’re all inclined to wish the best nutritional diet for our children.
It might become challenging to understand the distinction between food allergies in children and children being moody eaters. A food allergy is when a child cannot consume the food item instead of will not have a food item as it has an adverse effect on their health. It is important to note that children can often have food allergies. Some of them are more common than the others, but they certainly are likely in most children. This could mean that your child or ward is not being fussy when they fall sick. It could be a legitimate illness that stems from certain food items that they have had in the recent past.
When the child’s body reacts against the beneficial proteins found in food items, it can be termed a food allergy. The reaction almost always happens immediately after the food is consumed. The reactions could range from being mild to severe. As a parent or guardian, it becomes extremely important to note the possibility of your child or ward being allergic to certain food items.
Let’s look at some of the common symptoms of food poisoning along with the most common food allergies in children, as well as looking at what to do for preventing food allergies in children.
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It should be noted that not every slight “symptom” or “illness” can be wrongly labeled as a food allergy. This is why it is essential for parents, baby sitters, teachers, and family members – people who spend a lot of time with kids on a daily basis— to understand the symptoms and risks of food allergies in kids. American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has laid out the following information about food allergies. This information would help everyone taking care of a child with a food allergy at home or in school to detect and deal with the same.
To start with, it is crucial to understand that a food allergy is a lot different from food intolerance. The former mostly or always causes an immune system response. This triggers symptoms in your kids or wards that vary from slight discomfort for them to become life-threatening. Although some symptoms could be similar in both food intolerance does not affect the immune system under any scenario. It becomes imperative then to understand when which is in play.
The best way to understand and deal with the symptoms is to note if any of the following are present right after your child or ward ears something in particular. It is always advisable to consult a pediatric doctor so as to be sure once you have identified the symptoms. The doctor will not just confirm the medical nature of the allergy but is also likely to be able to suggest help if the symptoms unknowingly act up again.
- Symptoms related to breathing
If your child or ward starts wheezing or sneezing or their throat constricts right after having a food item, this is a categorical symptom of a food allergy. How this works is that the body refuses to digest the food because of its allergy. Due to that, the child’s body repels the food items that it has just consumed. These breathing-related symptoms can also suggest that the food being a part of the child’s digestive system is causing them to have difficulty breathing entirely. In case this set of symptoms is serious, it is best advised that the caretaker or parent take the child to an emergency doctor in order to address the problem at the earliest. The severity of the symptoms may also be related to the child’s age as per some experts. The younger the child, the more severe the breathing symptoms might be.
- Stomach based symptoms
Symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea or the feeling of nausea in the child may not only be present due to the food allergy and could also result from food poisoning or other illnesses. However, if a child seems to have these symptoms instantly after eating a food item or repeatedly after consuming something, it is best to consult a pediatric doctor regarding this.
- Skin based symptoms
If the child shows symptoms such as hives, heavy itchy rashes or swelling on any part of their skin soon after eating, the likelihood of the child having an allergy to one of the items in their last meal is very high. These symptoms do not come up in issues like food poisoning and thus are a clear giveaway. While it is advised that the parent or guardian address mild symptoms, any serious symptoms must be addressed by a doctor.
- Circulation symptoms
The most serious set of symptoms that a child can display occurring due to an allergy are those that are related to the blood and nutrition circulation in the child. If the child’s skin looks paler than normal right after a meal, or if the child feels light-headed or loses consciousness, the parent or guardian must initially rush the child to emergency services. There is no time to lose in such a scenario as the child’s body is in entire closure due to the food item.
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Most Common Food Allergies in Children
While a child may be allergic to any food or beverage item, there are certain common food allergies that many children suffer. These categories of allergies are often also the ones to look out most for in the case of your child or ward.
- Lactose intolerance
It has been found that as many as 30% of children and adults may be allergic to lactose. This is due to their body being unable to break down and digest the lactic acid in these food items. The items with the highest level of lactic acid are mostly made from milk or are indirectly milk-based products. The symptoms to note in case of lactose intolerance are generally gas, diarrhea, and bloating soon after the consumption of these items.
- Glutton sensitivity
A small yet recognizable percentage of children may be allergic to the protein known as gluten. This is mostly present in grains such as wheat. The way to recognize this allergy in the child is if they suffer from headaches, bloating, and an upset stomach soon after having a meal containing wheat. In this case, it is advisable to consult a doctor to avoid the allergy developing into a possible disease such as celiac disease.
- Additive sensitivity
Certain children, are allergic to certain food additives. Unlike the other two mentioned here, it becomes a little difficult to categorize and understand this sort of allergy. Since the details of the composition of the food item are most often not as clearly laid out here as the other two, however, it is imperative that what dye or chemicals or other additives are added to the meal be understood if the child has an adverse effect to having a meal containing certain items. The symptoms in this kind of allergy include rashes, diarrhea, and nausea. A severe case of such an allergy may result in an asthma attack being triggered in the child.
Treating The Allergies
They say prevention is the best cure, and this is as true as it gets in this scenario. For most of the allergies that exist with respect to food and beverage items in children, there is barely any cure, and these allergies carry on to their adulthood. While the severity of the allergic may reduce overtime or, in certain exceptional cases, may even disappear altogether on its own, there is little that doctors can do except symptom management in these cases. Certain persons who face extreme versions of these allergies may have to take medication to keep the allergy in check, especially when the triggering items are such that are found in most food items. For children, the best way is to prevent the consumption of said food items by the child. Any nutritional gaps that arise due to this can be met by finding better alternatives that suit the child. A child dietician can be consulted in order to find such alternatives.
A child is often unable to diagnose or understand what is happening to them. Thus, it is crucial that parents, caretakers, and school teachers ensure they are well aware of the allergies, symptoms, and actions to take. This goes a long way in keeping children healthy and safe.