What are food allergies?
Food allergies are a result of abnormal immune system reactions to food items that are usually harmless for the majority. It can affect people of any age – from babies and children, to even adults. The onset of symptoms can be sudden, unexpected and life threatening.
What are common food allergies amongst kids?
The most common food allergies amongst kids are:
- Nuts (eg. Walnuts, cashews, etc)
- Shellfish (eg. Shrimp, crab, lobster, etc)
These food allergens account for the majority of food allergy reactions in babies and children.
What happens when a child consumes food that they are allergic to?
When consuming such foods, your child’s immune system overreacts to food allergens and releases antibodies, which in turn triggers the release of various chemicals into the bloodstream in defense. This causes allergic reactions and these allergic reactions can affect your child’s eyes, nose, throat, skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract.
What are common food allergy symptoms in children?
Common food allergy symptoms in children include:
- Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth or throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Stomach pains
- Severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis, which can cause low blood pressure and difficulty breathing
What can I do if my child is allergic to a particular food?
If your child is allergic to a particular food, parents can help to prevent the occurrence of allergic reactions by avoiding giving your child the food that causes the allergic symptoms. See a paediatrician to determine the foods that your child is allergic to. A skin prick test or blood test may be able to identify the types of food allergens that triggers an allergic response.
How can my child get tested for allergies?
If your child has an adverse reaction or intolerance to certain foods, allergy testing is important. These simple tests can be performed for your child at Raffles Children’s Centre.
The skin prick test is administered on a small area of the skin, usually on the forearm, to test for allergies to various food allergens. The test is quick, painless and accurate.
A blood test measures the level of antibodies in your child’s blood directed against food allergens. The higher the level of antibodies, the increased likelihood of an allergy. Your child will have their blood drawn and a sample will be sent for testing.
To diagnose a food allergy, doctors will often use a combination of skin prick tests and blood tests. If both tests are inconclusive, the doctor may conduct a food challenge test. Such tests are used to determine if a child has a food allergy or whether they have outgrown a food allergy. These should only be conducted with the presence of a medical professional.
Besides testing, it is also important to tell your paediatrician about suspected food allergens, sensitivity to certain foods, and a family history of food or other allergies to help accurately diagnose the food allergen.
How can I manage my child's food allergies?
If your child tests positive for one or more allergies, our paediatrician will recommend a suitable treatment plan. This plan can vary depending on the type of allergy.
Here are some ways to reduce symptoms from a food allergy:
- Avoid foods that cause symptoms
- Eliminate suspected and related food groups from diet
- Check with your doctor for an action plan
- Read food labels for ingredients
- Carry an emergency medication such as an Epipen
In children with a food allergy, it is important to avoid foods and related food groups that trigger the allergy. As food allergies can last a lifetime, parents can help to support their child’s treatment and replace the food allergen with a nutritionally compatible substitute.