Managing Food Allergies In Children
Theres no cure for food allergies yet, but many children grow out of them. You can also take some steps to make it easier for you and your child to live with food allergies.
Avoid the food Its important for your child to avoid the food. This can be challenging, particularly as eating even tiny amounts can cause an allergic reaction. Your child also needs to avoid foods and cutlery that could have been in contact with the food theyre allergic to.
You can do 2 important things to help your child avoid the food:
- Read and make sure you understand all food labels. Be aware that some allergenic foods have different names for example, cows milk protein might be called whey or casein. But by law 10 allergens must be plainly stated on food labels cows milk, soy, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish and lupin.
- Be careful when you eat out. Ask what ingredients each dish includes, how it was prepared, whether it has touched any other foods, and whether theres any risk of cross-contamination. Most restaurants are happy to tell you, but they might not know about the ingredients in some foods like sauces. Its best to avoid buffets and bain-maries because its very possible that ingredients have been transferred from one dish to another.
Have an action plan Talk to your doctor about an ASCIA action plan. This will help you recognise and treat symptoms if your child eats something that causes an allergic reaction.
Allergy Symptoms In Babies And Toddlers
A child with allergies may have any or all of the following symptoms:
- Dark under-eye circles
- Irritability, restlessness or excessive fatigue
She may also complain about:
- An itchy, runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes, skin, throat or roof of the mouth
- Trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath or tightness in the chest
- Itchy ear canals
If the same symptoms occur around the same time every spring, summer or fall, it may be a sign that your childs body is reacting to outdoor allergens. If you or your partner have a family history of allergies, theres a good chance your little one is predisposed to those seasonal sneezes and sniffles, too.
At What Age Is Allergy Testing Done
As mentioned above, there is no set age for someone to get allergy testing. Allergists, in choosing to recommend an allergy test or not, often will take a look a look at the child, the suspected allergen, and the reaction itself.
Since infants and children are often found to outgrow allergies, a lot of allergists will recommend waiting until late childhood to conduct a test if needed, especially if a parent is relatively certain of the suspected food .
If a child is having serious allergic reactions that are interfering with their health, school, or social life, or they are reacting to what appears to be a few allergens, an allergy test can be ordered at any age. So, at what age is allergy testing done? At whatever age, it is considered to be necessary for everyones safety.
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How Much Does An Allergy Test Cost
The cost of allergy testing can range from $60 to thousands of dollars, so its important to work with your doctor to choose the right tests for your child. Skin tests range from $60 to $300. Blood tests can cost from $200 to $1,000, according to the ABIM Foundation. Depending on your coverage, health insurance may or may not cover these tests.
Can Food Allergy Tests Predict The Severity Of A Food Allergy
Skin prick test and IgE antibody blood test results are not very good at predicting the severity of food allergy. The health history and physical exam are also analyzed to better predict the severity of allergic reactions. Helpful health history information includes the severity of past allergic reactions and other health conditions such as asthma.
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What Is Allergy Testing
Allergy testing is a way to find out if your child is allergic to something, called an allergen. Common allergens include pet dander, pollen, insect bites or stings, and certain foods, such as peanuts. Your child’s healthcare provider will use an allergy test to check your child’s body’s response to the allergen. During the test, he or she will watch for small skin reactions that show your child is probably allergic. He or she will also watch for a rare but serious reaction that needs immediate treatment.
Environmental And Food Allergies Cause Different Reactions
Depending on babys symptoms, you may be able to better pinpoint what type of allergy she has. Although some may overlap, environmental and food allergies typically cause different symptoms.
Environmental allergies, like dog and cat dander, pollen, or dust mites, usually affect the respiratory system. You may notice your baby has a runny nose, red, watery eyes, cough, wheezing, or difficulties breathing.
A food allergy, such as an allergy to cows milk or peanuts , will, instead, usually show in the form of an upset stomach. Your baby may be overly cranky from a sore belly, excess gas, or constipation. Or, more severe symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, or a severe skin rash.
Neither type of allergy is necessarily more dangerous than the other. The severity depends on how the allergy presents itself in your baby, with some babies having a more severe reaction to cats and dogs than others do to cows milk. If youre ever concerned about your babys symptoms, check with your pediatrician, who can address your concerns.
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Is Food Allergy Different From Food Intolerance And Food Sensitivity
Food sensitivity is a general term. It can be used for many conditions that can cause symptoms after eating certain foods. Examples include food allergy, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome , heartburn and food intolerance such as lactose intolerance. Food sensitivities should be diagnosed so that the best treatment options and a monitoring plan can be identified.
Unlike food allergy, food intolerance does not involve the immune system. The signs and symptoms of food intolerance typically happen when a person does not have enough of a specific enzyme to completely digest or metabolize part of a food. Lactose intolerance is an example of food intolerance caused by a lack of the lactase enzyme needed to digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk.
Preparing For Allergy Testing
The allergist may decide on a skin test, which involves placing certain allergens on or underneath the skin. There are three main types: skin prick test, intradermal test, and patch test. Alternately, the allergist may study blood removed from the vein. “Skin tests tend to be slightly better than blood tests at showing what bothers your child the most and give you results right away,” says Sakina Bajowala, M.D., an allergist in North Aurora, Illinois, and mom of two sons with seasonal allergies. Because both tests can have false-positive results, an allergy diagnosis is usually made only when a child has obvious symptoms as well.
It’s important to note that a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications, such as antihistamines, can prevent accurate results from a skin tests. Before scheduling a test, always inform your doctor of all the medications your child is taking. They may need to stop using these medications for up to two weeks beforehand.
Talk to your kid about allergy testing so they know what to expect before the appointment. Also consider bringing a distractionlike toys or a coloring bookto keep kids occupied while you wait for the results.
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At What Age Can You Test A Child For Allergies
You also have to ask what the testing results will really tell you. I’m assuming that you are not talking about food or drug allergies but rather allergies to things in the environment. The vast majority of children who have chronic allergy symptoms are sensitive to dust mites, molds, and animal danders in the house. . The way to prevent symptoms is to limit the exposure to these agents: Plastic covers for the mattress, use synthetic pillows, get the stuffed animals off the bed and washed regularly, no carpet on the floor, keep dust to a minimum. You may find that her symptoms improve quickly with these measures.
If your child has severe allergy symptoms such as recurrent episodes of wheezing, sinus infections, snoring and sleep apnea, it may indeed be worthwhile to do the testing, even at this age. I suggest that you assess the severity of your child’s allergy symptoms and the circumstances in which they occur, and then talk with the allergist or your pediatrician about the options.
Please note: This “Expert Advice” area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.
How Old Does Your Child Have To Be To Get An Allergy Test
Many parents believe that children must reach a certain age before allergies develop. In actuality, children of any age can have and be tested for allergies according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology .
A simple blood test can be performed at any age , Dr. Wright agrees. When a child has an allergy, it can surface for the first time at any age. Some children stop reacting to certain allergens, such as milk and egg, as they grow, but allergies to foods like nuts tend to remain.
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Be Especially Careful When Introducing Peanut Products
Serious food allergies are dangerous and will change the way you and your family eat. Since the most common serious allergen is peanuts, be overly cautious when introducing it to your child.
This doesnt mean hold off on introducing peanuts though. In fact, theres currently research that states that introducing younger children to peanuts, as early as 4 months old, can actually reduce the risk of developing an allergy.
Heres a great article with tips for safely incorporating peanuts into your babys diet.
Allergy Risk Facts And Factors For Children
Most children with food allergy dont have parents with food allergy. But if a childs parents have a food allergy or other allergy problems like asthma, eczema or hay fever, the child has an increased risk of food allergies.
Babies with severe eczema in the first few months of life are at an increased risk of developing food allergy.
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Allergies And Breastfeeding Or Formula Feeding
Exclusive breastfeeding or first infant formula is recommended for around the first 6 months of life.
If your baby has a cows’ milk allergy and is not being breastfed, talk to your GP about what type of formula to give your baby.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you do not need to avoid foods that can trigger allergic reactions , unless you’re allergic to them.
Tips To Relieve Seasonal Allergy Symptoms In Babies And Toddlers
Allergy symptoms are no fun for kids, and if left untreated, they can lead to sinus and ear infections. See an allergist, who can figure out the triggers causing your little ones symptoms and recommend effective and safe treatments.
In the meantime, the best way to relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose and coughing in babies and toddlers is to try to avoid allergens whenever possible.
Here are a few tips to prevent and relieve seasonal allergy symptoms:
Only Introduce New Foods At Home
After reading about the symptoms, were sure you understand why we recommend only introducing new foods at home. This makes things much more manageable if an allergic reaction occurs.
Plus, who wants to deal with the stress of babys first allergic reaction while out at a restaurant? We doubt many people do.
If you want to be especially careful, consider having a child-safe oral antihistamine around. Talk to your pediatrician to find one that will work best for you and your child.
Our Paediatric Allergy Specialists
Dr Tom Dawson is a paediatric consultant with an interest in allergy in Worcester since 2009. He is the paediatric lead for Audit, Guidelines and Research in Worcester. He trained at University College London and obtained an MSc Allergy from Imperial College London. He is chair of the Midlands Paediatric Allergy Group. He has developed an allergy service managing food allergy, performing food challenges and providing subcutaneous and sublingual allergy immunotherapy treatments. He is a member of the BRIT committee, an innovative registry for monitoring the efficacy of immunotherapy nationwide, and the RCPCH/BSACI Standards Group which is developing standards for paediatric allergy services.
Aneta Ivanova, our nurse consultant at our paediatric allergy clinic in Birmingham, specialises in child and baby allergy testing and management. She is one of only four Paediatric Allergy Nurse Consultants in the NHS in England .
Consulting over 1,5000 children as an NHS practitioner every year, Aneta has a wealth of experience in working with young patients . During her 35+-year career as a child paediatrician, she has proven her commitment to improving your and your child with excellent care for a better quality of life.
Contact the Midland Health team on 0333 772 1999 to book your appointment today.
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How To Reduce Childrens Risk Of Food Allergies
You can take some simple steps that might help reduce your childs risk of developing food allergies.
Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet while pregnant or breastfeeding When youre pregnant or breastfeeding, its important to eat a wide variety of healthy foods including fruit, vegies, grains, protein and dairy or calcium-enriched products.
Avoiding foods that commonly cause allergies for example, eggs and peanuts while youre pregnant or breastfeeding wont reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies. In fact, avoiding too many foods can be dangerous, because your baby wont get important nutrients.
BreastfeedBreastmilk is best, so its recommended that you exclusively breastfeed your baby until its time to introduce solid foods at around 6 months old. Its best to keep breastfeeding until your baby is at least 12 months old, if you can.
Talk to a doctor or nurse about infant formula For parents bottle-feeding with infant formula, theres no evidence that giving babies hydrolysed infant formula or partially hydrolysed infant formula instead of standard cows milk formula prevents allergies. But some evidence suggests that these formulas might help to manage cows milk allergy.
If youre not sure what formula is best for your baby, talk to your child and family health nurse, GP or paediatrician.
These foods include well-cooked egg, wheat , peanut butter, tree nut paste , soy products , sesame, shellfish and other seafood.
The Difference Between Intolerance And An Allergy
One thing to note is that there is a difference between an allergy to foods and intolerance to foods. An allergy is your immune systems first line of defensive. It indicates that there is something, usually a protein, in the food that will cause either respiratory or gastrointestinal problems.
There may be an underlying factor causing the allergens, but that is easier to test when your baby grows older.
Intolerance to food is more of a metabolic response unrelated to the immune system. It usually involves enzymes and chemical reactions that any given body has a hard time processing. Talk to your pediatrician to learn more about these differences and what they mean for your baby.
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Breastfeeding Can Help Prevent Them
Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby, if youre able to do so. Breastfeeding your baby for his first 6 months of life, or longer if possible, gives him the best chance at developing a strong immune system, and reducing common infections, skin rashes, serious diseases, and the chance of obesity. It also can significantly lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome .
Additionally, breastfeeding can help prevent allergies from occurring in baby. Breastmilk is easy for baby to digest, unlike formula and cows milk, which can trigger allergic reactions in newborns.
This isnt to say that breastfeeding will, without fail, prevent allergies in your baby. Some allergies exist because of genetics, and no amount of breastfeeding will prevent them from prevailing when theyre ready.
However, studies show a definite link between the prevalence of allergies in children who were breastfeed as babies and those who werent. The longer a baby was breastfed, the less likely she was to develop allergies.
Understand How And Why To Screen For Food Allergy
Most babies dont need to be screened for food allergy at all, said Dr. David Fleischer, M.D., section head of allergy and immunology at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. Government guidelines recommend that only those who are considered high-risk be screened before trying to eat peanut products, but even this is controversial in the international food allergy community. Australias recent guidelines, for instance, dont recommend pre-emptive screening of these high-risk groups at all.
The problem with screening babies before they have symptoms is that allergy tests can indicate only whether they are producing antibodies against an allergen, but this doesnt mean they have a true food allergy. If a positive test is erroneously used to diagnose a food allergy and parents are told to avoid feeding their child that food, dietary restriction might not only be unnecessary, but could cause an allergy to develop, Dr. Stukus said. That is absolutely heartbreaking because that is now a medical professional absolutely causing harm to somebody else and creating an allergy that did not exist before, he said. If your baby does have any allergy testing, how the results are interpreted is key, and you dont want it to unnecessarily delay introduction of foods.
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