Food allergy in children is an immune reaction that occurs immediately after eating a particular food. Even a small amount of some foods can trigger signs and symptoms, for example digestive problems, hives or swelling in the respiratory system. In some people, a food allergy can cause serious symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis (allergic shock).
Food allergy is affecting 6 to 8 percent of children under the age of 3 and 3 percent of adults. While there is no cure, some children out grow food allergies as they grow older. Food allergies are often mistaken for a much more common reaction known as food intolerance. Food intolerance is a less serious condition which is not immune system reaction.
Food Allergy Symptoms in Children
An allergic reaction to a some food can be uncomfortable, and it may not have serious effects for some people. In some people, the food reaction that causes an allergic reaction can be frightening and even life threatening. Symptoms of food allergy generally develop within 2-120 minutes of consuming the food in question.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include almost whole body. Reactions can affect different parts of the body at the same time (for example, an abdominal pain accompanied by a rash).
It may occur with one or more of the following complaints:
- Urticaria (Hives)
- Breathing problem
- Recurrent cough
- Shock or circulatory disturbance, difficulty swallowing, and feeling something stuck in the throat
- Swelling of the tongue, affecting the ability to speak or breathe
- Weak pulse
- Pale or blue coloring of the skin
- Feeling dizzy or fainting
- The development of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that prevents breathing and shocks the body.
Diagnosis of Food Allergy in Children
Food allergy often causes a type of reaction when triggering food is eaten. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and the same symptoms do not occur in every reaction. It is not possible to predict how serious next reaction will be, and patients with food allergies should be completely informed about the risk of anaphylaxis, a fatal reaction, that the first intervention should be done with epinephrine (adrenaline).
While food allergies can be seen at any age, most food allergies occur in early childhood. If you think you might have a food allergy, it will be helpful to get checked by an allergist who will take your detailed medical history; this allergist decides which tests to take (if any) and uses this information to determine if a food allergy is present. To make a diagnosis, allergy specialists ask detailed questions about the patient’s medical history and symptoms.
Tests for Food Allergy in Children
After taking the patient’s medical history, allergy specialists may request skin tests and / or blood tests that show whether there are nutrient-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the body:
- Skin pricks tests It results in 20 minutes. A liquid containing a small amount of food allergens is dropped into the skin in the arm or back area, pierced with a small sterile lancet that allows the liquid to leak under the skin. The skin prick test, which is not painful but can be bothersome, is considered positive if a swelling (resembling a bump from a mosquito bite) develops where the suspected allergen is placed. As a control, a skin test is done with a liquid that does not contain the allergen; this should not cause a reaction, thus allowing comparison between the two test sites.
- Blood tests may not be as effective as skin tests, they measure the amount of IgE antibody to certain foods tested. The results come out in about a week and are reported as a numerical value.
In some cases, allergy specialists may recommend a nutritional load test, which is considered the most accurate way to diagnose a food allergy. During this loading test, which is carried out under strict medical supervision, the patient is fed small amounts of suspicious trigger food in increasing doses over a period of time, followed by observation for several hours to see if the reaction has taken place.
This test is useful when the patient history is uncertain, when skin or blood tests are inadequate. It can also be used to determine if an allergy has occurred.
Due to the possibility of a severe reaction, the loading test should only be carried out in the doctor’s office by experienced allergists with emergency medical aid and equipment.
Foods That Make Most of the Allergies in Children
In adults, most food allergies are triggered by some of the following proteins:
- Shellfish such as shrimp, lobster and crab
- Tree nuts, such as walnuts and hazelnuts
Food allergies in children are commonly triggered by the following proteins:
- Tree nuts
- Cow milk
Which experts should be directed to, for children with food allergies?
If a food allergy is suspected, family doctors or pediatricians can refer to an allergist. Allergy specialists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.
Is Food Allergy Permanent in Children?
Food allergies in early childhood often pass. It is estimated that children grow out %80 to %90 of egg, milk, wheat and soy allergy by the age of 5. Some allergies are more permanent. For example, peanut allergy can be seen in 1 out of every 5 children, and in less hazelnut or seafood allergy. The pediatrician or allergy specialists can perform tests to monitor the course of food allergies in the child and monitor it to see if the allergy has disappeared.
What is the Difference of Food Allergy and Food Intolerance in Children?
Food allergy is an abnormal immune system response to a food protein and triggers an allergic reaction in the body. Symptoms can include hives, itching, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. In some cases, due to difficulty breathing and / or a sudden drop in blood pressure, it can cause life-threatening symptoms called anaphylaxis.
Food intolerance is a reverse reaction to a food that does not contain the immune system. Responses can occur after eating a food in a few minutes or with a delay of up to 20 hours.
Symptoms of intolerance are sometimes uncertain and may include a combination of:
- bloating and gas,
- diarrhea, nausea and indigestion,
- complaints such as eczema or aggravation of asthma
Food intolerance can sometimes mimic the symptoms of other medical conditions – it’s important to be checked by a doctor first to eliminate other problems.
Are Food Allergies in Children Hereditary?
The tendency to develop allergies is usually hereditary, which means that allergy developing chance can be passed from parent to child through genes. But having an allergy only by the person himself, his wife or one of the children does not mean that all children will definitely have an allergy condition. And some do not inherit a particular allergy usually, only the chance of getting an allergy increases.
Some children may have an allergy even if no family member has an allergy.
Treatment of Food Allergies in Children
There is no proven radical treatment method in food allergies. Avoiding foods and products that the patient is allergic to is the only way to prevent reactions. Absolute avoidance is a must, as there may be a severe reaction even with the consumption of very small amounts of nutrients. If an important nutrient is removed from the diet, it is necessary to regulate the diet to prevent malnutrition.
Antihistamine drugs and corticosteroids can be used in mild reactions that occur in patients with food allergies. Adrenaline auto-injectors should be given to patients with a history of anaphylaxis and / or high-risk food allergies and be informed about their use. Since anaphylaxis is a sudden onset and an emergency, patients or parents must have an adrenaline auto-injector with them.
Can food allergies be prevented in children?
A routine to prevent food allergies is not recommended to mothers during pregnancy and while breastfeeding a child. Studies have shown that the expectant mother has no significant benefit for the baby when she avoids foods that are highly allergic during this time. Breast milk is the ideal way to feed the baby. Breast milk is the least likely food to make an allergic reaction, and easy to digest and strengthens the baby’s immune system.
Especially recommended for the first four to six months, it can reduce early eczema, wheezing and cow’s milk allergy. For babies in risk of food allergies that the mother cannot breastfeed, hydrolyze baby formulas are recommended as hypoallergenic substitutes instead of cow’s milk and soy formulas.