Food allergies seem to be more and more common in recent times, with as many as 1 in 12 children suffering from some sort of allergy. But what are food allergies, what causes them, and how do you know if your child is having a reaction to a particular food?
What are Food Allergies?
A food allergy is a reaction to a certain type of food that has been eaten. Your child’s immune system will have a bad reaction to the protein in a certain food that would normally be harmless. The immune system will try to fight the reaction by producing antibodies. The reaction would normally occur within a couple of minutes of eating the culprit food.
Some allergies are so severe that the child does not have to eat the particular food before a reaction occurs. They may simply come into contact with it, and a reaction is triggered. Luckily, these more severe cases are rare.
What Causes a Food Allergy?
Food allergies are more common in young children than adults. Your child is more likely to have an allergy if there is a history of them in the family. They are also more likely to occur in children who have conditions like eczema, asthma and hayfever.
There are 8 main food types that cause allergic reactions:
- Tree Nuts
These 8 food types account for around 90% of reactions, with the three most common being milk, eggs and peanuts.
How You Can Tell a Reaction is Happening
If your child has an immediate reaction to a food, then the symptoms are easy to spot. They can include:
- A breakout of hives on the face, that may spread to other parts of the body
- Mild swelling of the lips or eyes
- Itchy mouth or irritated eyes
- Sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, or watery eyes
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
The great thing about an immediate reaction, is that it’s easier to know which food caused it. The reaction will likely happen within the first one or two times of trying the food.
Not all reactions are immediate though. And it can be harder to pinpoint which food caused a delayed reaction. For a delayed reaction, different parts of your child’s immune system are affected, so it can take longer for the reaction to happen.
These are some delayed reaction signs to watch out for:
- Blood or mucus in their pooh
- Moderate to severe eczema
A lot of these symptoms are common in early childhood, so they may not always indicate a food allergy. If you have any concerns, make sure you take your child to see a doctor.
Can Food Allergies Be Prevented?
There is no known research that answers this question definitively.
What you eat during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding is not proven to have any effect on causing or preventing food allergies. Breastfeeding a child for the first 6 months of his or her life is known to pass on the mother’s immunities, so it may help prevent against food allergies. It is recommended that any new foods are introduced one at a time, so if a reaction occurs it is easy to pinpoint the cause.
Depending on what your child is allergic too, they may grow out of their food allergy. But unfortunately, there are no known cures or prevention methods for food allergies.
Food allergies are becoming more common in our children. You will note that many education providers have no-nut policies to help safeguard those with allergies. Because of this increase in reactions to certain foods, it is great to educate yourself with some knowledge on the subject. You never know when you when it might come in handy. If you have any concerns for your loved ones, then get them along to a doctor quickly. It’s better to be safe than sorry!