Children And Food Allergies
It’s important to take special care with children who have food allergies. A child with severe food allergies may have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to even a tiny amount of a food allergen. Your child should always wear a medical alert bracelet. Talk to your doctor about an Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan.
Make sure that all caregivers :
- Know about your child’s food allergy.
- Can recognize the symptoms of a food allergy.
- Know where the epinephrine shot is kept and how to use it.
- Know to call 911 immediately.
Children may have only mild symptoms in the first few minutes after they eat the food allergen, but they may have severe symptoms in 10 to 60 minutes. Children always should be observed in a hospital for several hours after a reaction.
Make sure that your child:
- Always wears a medical alert bracelet.
- Always carries epinephrine. Children at risk of severe allergic reactions should keep their epinephrine at school or daycare and at home. Older, mature children should be taught to give themselves the shot.
Although your child needs to avoid certain foods, he or she still needs to eat healthy foods. A dietitian can tell you which foods are important for your child’s health.
Food Allergy Vs Food Intolerance
Its important to know that food allergies arent the same as food intolerances or sensitivities. There are a lot of food foundations to peoples health issues, and many of them stem from these three things, Jaeger notes.
- Food allergy: This potentially life-threatening response happens when your body overreacts to the proteins in specific foods. Allergic reactions can include skin irritation, hives, rashes, itchiness, swelling and anaphylaxis.
- Food intolerance: When your body cant properly break down a certain food or ingredient, you might experience GI issues like diarrhea, gas and bloating. Some intolerances can cause cold-like symptoms.
- Food sensitivity: Sometimes lumped in with intolerances, sensitivities are due to an imbalance of the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract . Symptoms can include GI issues, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, headaches and brain fog.
How To Find Out If You Have A Food Allergy: Steps And Options To Consider
An estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies and 5.9 million of them are children or teens under 18.1 Food allergies can range from the mildly uncomfortable to full-blown medical emergencies, so it is important to know what your body may react to. While you may be aware of some allergies, not all of them are obvious enough to notice. So is there a way to test for food allergies at home? What are your alternatives if you suspect an allergy?
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Food Allergy Testing And Management
Because an allergic reaction to food can be so serious and severe, it is important to find out if a reaction was caused by an intolerance or by an allergy in order to decide on appropriate management.
If food allergies are the suspected cause of symptoms, itâs important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if testing for allergies is warranted or if symptoms may be caused by something else.
A blood testâtogether with an allergy-focused medical historyâmay help identify underlying allergen triggers.
A blood testâtogether with an allergy-focused medical historyâmay help identify underlying allergen triggers.
A diagnosis, followed by counseling and advice based on test results, can help to reduce the incidence of adverse reactions and the unnecessary exclusion of foods that should be eaten as part of a normal, healthy diet.1,11
What Are The Symptoms Of Food Allergies
Symptoms of food allergies can vary from person to person and from reaction to reaction.
Reactions can be different with each episode, even for the same person thats part of the difficulty of managing food allergies. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually appear within minutes of eating the food, though they can sometimes occur hours later.
Each of the symptoms can occur alone or in combination with other symptoms. In a severe reaction, sometimes youll see a combination of symptoms from different body areas.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction are:
- Itchy or runny nose, sneezing
- Itchy or tingling sensation in the mouth
- A few hives, mild itching of skin
- Mild nausea or discomfort
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The first thing a doctor looks at when diagnosing food allergy is your history of symptoms. If you think you might have a food allergy, keep a written diary with the following information:
- What symptoms did you notice?
- How long after eating did you notice symptoms?
- How long did the symptoms last and how severe were they?
- Did you do anything to help ease the symptoms ?
- What exactly did you eat and how much?
- Where and how was the food processed? Was it at home? A restaurant?
- How was the food prepared: raw? boiled? roasted?
- Were you doing anything else during or just after your meal, like exercising?
Show your diary to your doctor. Sometimes the food allergy is obvious, but follow-up testing is important to confirm the diagnosis.
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Can A Food Sensitivity Test Help Identify Allergies
Food sensitivities are common in both adults and children across the country and cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms. In fact, theres a high chance that you or someone you know in Atlanta has a food sensitivity, whether the issue has been diagnosed using food allergy testing or not. So if you are concerned about food sensitivities, what can you do to identify the problem?
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Consult With Your Healthcare Provider
The most important thing to know before starting an elimination diet is that you should only do it with the guidance of a medical professional.
- You could have a serious medical problem: Going it alone can cause you to go without treatment for underlying issues like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Without appropriate care, you could be delaying treatment or masking symptoms by changing your diet, Jaeger says.
- You could end up lacking key nutrients: If you dont have the appropriate person helping you, you could end up with a whole host of other medical problems because your diet is deficient, she warns.
How Are You Diagnosed With A Food Allergy
An allergist will first learn your history and then may perform a combination of tests to confirm if you have an allergy. Here are some of theways a diagnosis is made:
Your doctor or allergistmay ask these questions:
- What happened when the reaction occurred ?
- When did the reaction first start?
- How long did it last?
- What treatments were used?
- Do any other family members have allergies?
Skin prick test
This is the most common test used by allergists. Typically, a small drop of the allergen is placed on a persons arm or back. The skin is then pricked with a special needle, so the body can absorb the allergen. The allergist also places a drop expected to cause a swelling to show the test worked, and saline to show that the prick does not cause an itchy red bump. These are called positive and negative controls.
After about 15-20 minutes the skin is examined to see if there is any redness or swelling . The result of the allergen will be measured and recorded and compared to the control tests and then the allergist will determine if it is a positive reaction.
A positive reaction is more common in people with allergies, however some people with positive tests are not allergic. A negative test is helpful to rule out an allergy, but it doesnt necessarily mean there is no allergy.
Skin tests are a tool that allergists use along with other information to come to a diagnosis.
The IgE test is a tool used along with other information to come to a diagnosis.
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British Columbia Specific Information
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can start within minutes of eating or exposure to an allergen . In fewer cases, the reaction can take up to several hours after exposure.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can vary from person to person. The same person can have different symptoms each time they have a severe allergic reaction. A severe reaction can take place without hives, so make sure to look out for all signs of an allergic reaction. Do not ignore early symptoms. When a reaction begins, it is important to respond right away. To learn more about severe allergic reactions and the proper emergency management, visit our Severe allergic reaction health feature.
Are There Any Risks To The Test
An oral challenge test can cause a severe allergic reaction. That’s why this test is only given under close supervision by an allergist.
You may get an allergic reaction during an elimination diet. You should talk to your allergist about how to manage potential reactions.
A skin prick test can bother the skin. If your skin is itchy or irritated after the test, your allergist may prescribe medicine to relieve the symptoms. In rare cases, a skin test can cause a severe reaction. So this test must also be done under close supervision by an allergist.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
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Could My Symptoms Be Something Else
If you regularly have diarrhoea, bloating, tummy pain or skin rashes but you’re not certain of the cause, see a GP.
A GP may be able to diagnose the cause from your symptoms and medical history. If necessary, they’ll order tests, such as blood tests.
You can also do some research yourself. It may help to find out about other conditions that cause similar symptoms. For example, find out about:
The bowel is a sensitive organ and it’s common to have bowel symptoms when you have been ill or feel run down or stressed.
How To Discover A Food Allergy
Food allergies can be very scary things. Working in schools I see kids with food allergies every day, and long before Nick was even a thought I realized how severe food allergies could be. Most expecting parents worry about their future childs health. As the saying goes you want a healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes. That being said there are many things we still worry about. One of my fears was that I would have a child with a peanut allergy. The thought that just being around a peanut can cause an allergic reaction really scares me. Luckily we know that Nick does not have that extreme of a peanut allergy, although we dont know that he doesnt have one for sure. Still, my fear of a food allergy caused me to be very careful and observant of the foods I gave Nick. That vigilance is what helped me quickly realize not only did Nick have a food allergy, but it also helped me figure out the food he was allergic to.
Food allergies can be a very serious thing. Many of us dont think much of them because as kids they werent as common, but today a large number of children are allergic to some type of food. You can easily take steps to help protect your child if you take things slowly with new foods which hopefully you will do now that you know how to discover a food allergy.
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How Else Are Food Diaries Used
Food diaries are used for many purposes. In the food allergy world, the other most common use is by dietitians. The dietitian can review a food diary to determine if the child is getting adequate calories and nutrition. This is important to assess if important foods are eliminated from the diet due to suspected/diagnosed food allergies.
Know The Symptoms Of Food Allergies
If you are allergic to a food you have eaten, you may experience a variety of symptoms. These symptoms are not always present or the same for every person or reaction and can vary depending on a number of actors, including the amount of food allergen eaten.
If you are allergic to a food that you have eaten, symptoms may appear from within a few minutes to a few hours.
Symptoms of food allergies , can include:
- Loss of consciousness
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What Causes A Food Intolerance
It is often unclear why a person is sensitive to certain foods.
If your symptoms happen after eating dairy products, it’s possible you may have lactose intolerance. This means your body cannot digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk, yoghurt and soft cheeses. A GP can usually diagnose lactose intolerance by looking at your symptoms and medical history.
Some people have trouble digesting wheat and experience bloating, wind, diarrhoea, being sick and stomach pain after eating bread. Read more about wheat intolerance .
Otherwise, the culprit may be a food additive, chemical or contaminant, such as:
- monosodium glutamate
- toxins, viruses, bacteria or parasites that have contaminated food
- artificial food colours, preservatives or flavour enhancers
What About The Ingredients Of Packaged Goods
All ingredients need to be included in the diary, including the ingredients of packaged goods. The easiest way to do this is often to save the package when you are done with the contents, cut out the ingredient information and attach it to the diary. If this isnt possible, you can often print out a copy of the ingredient list from the manufacturers website. Or, of course, you can write it all down.
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How Is Food Allergy Testing Done
Before any testing can be done, all antihistamines need to be completely out of your system so that you can get more accurate results. Antihistamines block histamines and can relieve allergy symptoms. Youll need to be off antihistamines for at least 5 days. Popular antihistamines can include Zyrtec, Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, Hydroxyzine, some prescription eye drops and nasal sprays, among others. This list is not all-inclusive.
SKIN PRICK TEST
Allergists usually recommend a Skin Prick Test as a first step. This is done in the allergists office on the forearm or back. Each allergen is introduced onto the skin by slightly scratching the surface with a small plastic probe dipped in a solution containing the food allergen. It feels like a fingernail scratch and is not painful.
However, it can be very itchy and hard to stay still. It would be wise to bring something to distract the child so he doesnt scratch the test area, perhaps a favorite video to watch on your iPad.
After 15 minutes, the allergist examines and measures the reaction, if any. If theres a suspected allergy, there will be redness and raised swelling that may resemble a mosquito bite. The skin prick test is less costly and easy to do, however, there is a high rate of false positives . Skin testing can only really confirm what youre not allergic to. Everything else will require additional testing. Unfortunately with so many variables, food allergy testing is not an exact science.
How Can I Prevent My Baby From Having Food Allergies
In 2017, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases introduced new peanut allergy guidelines for the early introduction of peanut-containing foods to infants. Research now tells us that early introduction of peanut can help prevent the development of peanut allergy.
Introducing peanut to babies with severe eczema, egg allergy or both
- Babies with severe eczema, egg allergy or both are at high risk for peanut allergy. These babies should be given peanut-containing foods between 4-6 months of age to reduce the risk of the baby developing a peanut allergy.
- The baby should first see a board-certified allergist for peanut allergy testing. Peanut allergy testing will help the specialist decide if peanut can be safely introduced, and if this needs to first be done in a specialists office.
Introducing peanut to babies with mild to moderate eczema
- Babies with mild or moderate eczema should have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets at 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.
- These babies do not need to first see a specialist and can have peanut-containing foods introduced at home.
Introducing peanut to babies without eczema or egg allergy symptoms
Introducing peanut to babies at risk for food allergies
- Important: Parents of children at risk for food allergies should not introduce peanut into their childs diet without first consulting a board-certified allergist who can closely supervise and monitor the results.
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