What is a food allergy?Food allergies arise when our immune system produces antibodies in response to a protein in the diet that is normally considered harmless. Food allergies are more common in people who come from families with allergies, such as asthma, hay fever, or eczema.
If your child has a food allergy, it may have the following symptoms: itching in the nose or a runny nose, sore throat, itchy, watery eyes, rash (hives) and swelling, which usually occurs fairly quickly after eating. Food allergies are common in young children. It is estimated that between six and eight percent of children have food allergy (Venter et al 2008).
What is my child most likely to be allergic to?Food allergies are most common in small children with milk, eggs, peanuts and walnuts.
- Milk: However, this should not be confused with a milk intolerance. The early milk allergy has a good prognosis, it usually disappeared at the age of two years. ""Real milk allergy"" is relatively rare in older children.
- Eggs: About two percent of children under the age of three are allergic to eggs.
- Nuts: Just under two percent of children are allergic to peanuts. Allergies to nuts are becoming increasingly common (Hourihane et al 2007).
Which symptoms should I look for?It should be pretty easy for you to determine if your child has an allergy. The symptoms are:
- Nettle rash around the mouth, nose and eyes of your child. This can spread to the whole body.
- A slight swelling of the lips, eyes and face.
- A dripping or blocked nose, sneezing, watery eyes.
- Itching on the mouth and palate and an irritated neck.
- Dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea.
If your child reacts quickly to an allergen, it's usually easy to spot it. However, delayed allergic reactions to foods are becoming more common. Your child's body takes longer to respond because different parts of his immune system are affected. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Eczema, which is common in small children with milk allergy or wheat allergy.
How is a food allergy detected?If you think your child is allergic to food, see your pediatrician and ask him to refer you to a pediatrician for allergology. Most pediatricians in Germany are also very well versed in allergies. In case of ambiguity, the specialist is consulted or even a special clinic.
Your child will be the first to undergo a skin test. This procedure is very helpful, so even small babies can be diagnosed with allergies. Your doctor can also do blood tests. Always seek medical help if you are worried. Do not be tempted to buy commercial diagnostic kits that are offered on the internet, by mail order or at the health food store.
If your child has a delayed allergic reaction to food, the allergen can probably be detected by an exclusion procedure. This examination should be carried out by an allergological specialist pediatrician. He will monitor your child's symptoms and slowly reintroduce the suspected allergen into the diet to see if the symptoms recur. Always talk to your doctor or dietitian before removing any foods from your child's diet.
Will my child outgrow his food allergy?It depends on what it is allergic to. For example, up to 90 percent of children will outgrow allergies to cow's milk and eggs, while about 10 to 20 percent will overcome nut allergies. Some children may later develop other allergic or atopic conditions such as asthma or hay fever in their lifetime. Read our article on allergies for more information.
If your child has a food allergy it is important that it is frequently examined by an allergic specialist and that it is periodically tested to see whether it has overcome its allergy.
What are food intolerances?Small children can sometimes develop intolerance to certain foods. This is different from an allergy because the immune system is unaffected.These two terms are often confused. Your child has an intolerance when it has difficulty digesting certain foods. It may have the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
If you suspect your child has food intolerance, consult your pediatrician. Never try to diagnose yourself with your child, as there are other incompatibilities that cause similar symptoms, such as celiac disease, a condition in which the intestine responds to gluten in the grain (Bingley et al 2004).
The food that causes problems for your child is identified in much the same way as an allergen that causes a delayed reaction. The most important thing is the history. Under certain circumstances, a breath test for lactose intolerance or fructose malabsorption may be helpful. This can usually only be a special gastrointestinal specialist (gastroenterologist). A diet can be prescribed whereby the suspect foods are initially eliminated and then slowly added back in small amounts. This helps to determine which foods cause the problem.
Living with a food allergyIf a food allergy has been detected in your child, you should always follow the advice of your doctor or dietitian and avoid the foods that trigger the symptoms. Some children with mild allergies, such as eggs, may be able to tolerate the food when cooked or cooked, while other children with severe allergies may need to avoid the smallest amounts.
Holidays, birthday parties, dining out and outings need to be planned more carefully than before, but you'll soon get used to having the right food and drink ready for your child, and teaching others how to do it.
Always remember to take the medicine for your child on a trip. This can be a histamine, or if your child is at risk of a severe reaction (anaphylaxis), an adrenaline injection might also be needed.
Special Diet ShoppingShopping for a special diet can be a challenge at first. But once you know all the products that are right for your child with the help of your doctor or nutritionist, your diet can be varied, nutritious and tasty.
There are now in many supermarkets extra areas that have products without specific additives.Many stores have lists of their own products made without nuts, eggs or milk.
Reading labels on food packaging will now become a part of your daily life. You must be attentive, as the culprits appear in food in various disguises. Sodium caseinate and dairy products are obtained, for example, from milk. Your nutritionist can give you a complete list of all the names you should avoid.
Where to get more information
- The German Allergy and Asthma Association e. V. informs in detail about allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis, also in children and adolescents
- The Association Allergy Diseased Child, aids for children with asthma, eczema and hay fever (AAK) e. V., is a parent self-help organization for allergic and environmental ill children and adolescents
- pina e. V. stands for the Allergy / Asthma Prevention and Information Network and specifically addresses parents
- kindergesundheit-info. de is an online portal of the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) to promote the healthy development of children and adolescents.
Bingley PJ, Williams AJ, Norcorss AJ et al. 2004. Undiagnosed coeliac disease at age seven: population based prospective birth cohort study. BMJ 328: 322-323
COT. 1998. Peanut allergy. Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment. London: Department of Health. www. ie. gov. uk [pdf file 380KB; As of May 2009]
Hourihane J, Aiken R, Briggs R et al. 2007. The impact of government advice on peanut avoidance on the prevalence of peanut allergy in United Kingdom. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 119 (5): 1197-1202
Venter C, Pereira B, Voigt K et al. 2008. Prevalence and cumulative incidence of hypersensitivity in the first three years of life. Allergy . 63: 354-359>
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