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Allergies and Dietary Sensitivity

Healthy Food

What is food allergy?

A food allergy is an abnormal immune response directed by the body's immune system in response to the ingestion of a particular food. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education Foundation, one out of every thirteen children has a food allergy. When a child has a food allergy, their immune system overreacts, producing antibodies to the food as if it were a virus or other potentially dangerous foreign body. Food allergies affect people differently, and even the same person will respond differently at different times. 

The main issue is that most parents don't know if their children have food allergies until they try the food for the first time and have a reaction. That is why it is critical for parents, babysitters, and anyone else who spends time with the child to be on the lookout for signs of a food allergy.


What causes food allergy?

Before having a food allergy reaction, a sensitive child must have been exposed to the food at least once before. Sensitization most often occurs by a direct way, but it is also possible to be caused by mother's milk and even transplacentally. 

When your child eats the food for the second time, your immune system reacts to specific proteins in the food and releases a molecule called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) into your bloodstream, causing histamine and other substances to be released into your body's tissues, which is responsible for allergic signs and symptoms.

Some reactions can happen immediately, and others can happen several hours later. About 40 percent of those children have experienced severe, life-threatening reactions requiring immediate emergency care.


Foods most often cause food allergy

Eggs, milk and peanuts cause the most common food allergies in children, but also wheat, soy, crustaceans and tree nuts. Approximately 90% of all food allergies are associated with these foods. While most kids "outgrow" allergies, they may have lifetime allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.


Symptoms of food allergy

Since certain symptoms and diseases are mistakenly related to "food allergies," parents must be aware of the common signs and symptoms. Allergic symptoms can occur anywhere from minutes to hours after eating the food and include a wide variety of clinical manifestations. However, the symptoms of each child can differ, and serious systemic reactions, which may be fatal, are also possible. The following are some of the signs that may be present:

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

  • dizziness, lightheadedness

  • congestion, runny nose

  • Cramps

  • red, itchy rash (eczema) and Swelling

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth

  • Difficulty breathing Wheezing

  • Lowered blood pressure


Difference between food allergy and food intolerance

Food intolerance is much more common than food allergy. Intolerance to food is far more common than allergy to foodstuffs. Food allergy and food intolerance are often confused, as food intolerance symptoms sometimes resemble food allergy symptoms. If you react to a food, you do not necessarily have a food allergy. Food allergy causes a response to the immune system, while food intolerance has no effect on the immune system and usually impacts the digestive system.

While some symptoms are similar to those of a food allergy, food allergies are more dangerous, necessitating the child's complete avoidance of the offending food. Food intolerance, on the other hand, is often not as serious, and the child may be able to consume small quantities of the food.


Examples of food intolerances include:

  1. Lactose intolerance: 

  • When a child's body lacks an enzyme called lactase required to break down the sugar in milk, symptoms such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea can occur.

  1. Celiac disease: 

  • This happens when a child's body reacts to gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat. Headache, bloating, and an upset stomach are some of the symptoms.


The diagnosis of food allergy

If your child has a food allergy, the doctor will ask about his or her symptoms, how frequently the reaction occurs, whether any family members have allergies or conditions such as eczema or asthma, and how long it takes between eating a particular food and the onset of symptoms. A positive effect of the elimination diet also contributes significantly to the diagnosis.

A skin-prick test involves pricking your child's forearm or back with liquid extracts of food allergens and waiting 15 minutes to see if reddish raised spots (called wheals) form. A positive food test just means that your child is allergic to that particular food.

Blood tests to check the blood for IgE antibodies to specific foods also can be used, if your child’s blood has a high amount of antibodies, your child probably has an allergy.


Milk and soy allergy

Milk and soy allergies are most common in infants and young children. These symptoms are often distinct from those of other allergies, and can include the following:

  • Colic (fussy baby)

  • Blood in your child's stool

  • Failure to thrive


Prevention of food allergies

Food allergies cannot be avoided, but they can often be postponed in children if the following guidelines are followed:

  • If possible, breastfeed your infant for the first six months.

  • Do not give solid foods until your child is 6 months of age or older.

  • Avoid cow's milk, wheat, eggs, and fish during your child's first year of life.


When to get emergency help

Even if a previous allergic reaction was mild, some children experience a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. The person may have difficulty breathing or pass out. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that affects many parts of the body. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Swelling of the face ,lips and tongue

  • difficulty breathing, wheezing and turning blue

  • trouble swallowing

  • confusion or chest pain

  • dizziness ,fainting, unconsciousness

  • rapid drop in blood pressure and weak pulse

  • hoarse voice

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