Food allergies are becoming more and more common in children. The most common allergies are those of peanuts and different kinds of meat or dairy products. The knowledge that your little one might be allergic to the very thing you are feeding him/her makes a lot of parents very anxious. Which would make parents think does my child have a food allergy? And if so, how can you tell?
How you can tell that your child has a food allergy
The first thing you need to know is that in food allergy circles, there are certain foods that are considered common repeat offenders. They are known as, ‘the big eight’. These foods include the already mentioned peanuts, fish, milk, eggs, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, and finally wheat. This list is by no means the complete repertoire of foods that children can be allergic to, they are just the ones that most children are commonly allergic to. If your child is allergic to one of these types of food after eating them they will shows signs of having an allergic reaction.
These tell tale signs include: breaking out in hives, vomiting, wheezing, diarrhoea, swelling around the tongue, lips and even eyes. These are the most common and visible symptoms. Sometimes, in very extreme cases most, if not all of these signs are present at once. We say extreme because this can actually be life threatening. This condition is called anaphylaxis. Of the big eight, peanuts, shellfish and tree nuts are the most likely to cause anaphylaxis. The problem with food allergies is that if a child is allergic to one, more often than not they are allergic to others as well.
Allergies, be it food based or environmental, are a result of an immune system anomaly. It is actually a miscalibration. Their immune systems, mistakenly target some food proteins and labels them harmful invaders, the likes of bacteria and viruses. The system is just doing its job, mistakenly so, but its job nonetheless. Often children who have one or both parents with allergies will most likely develop allergic reactions as well.
How to diagnose food allergies
Usually, any of the above symptoms are a way of telling whether or not your little one has a food allergy. If you are not sure or the symptoms aren’t very clear, then the best course of action is to see your doctor or health visitor. Your doctor will either ask you to keep a food diary so you can monitor which foods your child reacts negatively to. Once this is determined and a conclusive conclusion is still not arrived at, then the doctor will carry out a skin test. This means he/she will scratch a tiny piece of your child’s skin and introduce the suspected offending food to this spot. This is all secondary because more often than not, your child will react in the above stated manner to any foods that he/she is allergic to.
How to handle food allergies
Once the offending foods have been identified, it is advised that you read all the food labels in order to avoid accidental exposure. All food labels are required to clearly state if they contain any of the big eight or what are considered potential allergens.
The good news is that most children outgrow their food allergies by the time they reach school going age. Things like milk, soy, eggs and wheat typically disappear by this age. However, some children may still have these allergies until they are a little older. The most stubborn of the big eight are tree nuts, peanuts and shellfish. Children almost never outgrow these allergies, so it’s best to find alternatives and avoid them.