Unless you’re someone who actually has one, food allergies are not something that’s typically given a lot of thought. However, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FoodAllergy.org), we probably should.
Did you know that over 15 million people have food allergies? Of that number, 9% are adults and the remaining 6% are children. Therefore, the risk that you or someone you know either has one or will develop one is pretty high.
Also, when it comes to children, because of some of the side effects that are related to certain food allergies, it’s not something that should be taken lightly.
So how can you identify many of the food allergies that are in children? Here are three things to keep in mind.
Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance
A food allergy is actually how your immune system responds to a certain food when it confuses an ingredient for being something harmful to the body and then rejects it. A food intolerance is when the digestive system takes issue with the food rather than your immune system. Of the two, the first is the most dangerous by far because when it comes to food intolerance, your body tends to respond in ways that are highly uncomfortable, but rarely are they life-threatening. One example of a particular kind of food intolerance is people who are lactose intolerant. They are not able to digest dairy easily, which can lead to gas, bloating, nausea and headaches. A food allergy’s side effects, on the other hand, tend to be far more extreme.
What Are Food Allergy Side Effects Like?
Although some are mild and others are severe, food allergy side effects are hard to overlook. One’s body can react to a food allergy by breaking out in hives or a body rash, having chest pains or shortness of breath, the tongue swelling up, itchy skin, intense stomach pains or diarrhea (and these are only a few examples). If there’s one thing that all of these symptoms have in common, it’s that no one’s body should respond this way when it comes to eating a certain kind of food. When the side effect is urgent like the blocking of airways, once you take your child to the emergency room, there’s a great chance that they will narrow down the direct cause for you at the hospital. But if it’s something like a stomach upset, be sure to take note of the kinds of foods your child ate around the time that they stated they weren’t feeling well so that you can detect if there is a direct correlation.
When Should You Get an Allergy Test?
If you’ve noticed that your child has had a constant complaint, especially if it relates to a certain food (or kinds of food), the first thing to do would be to not give them that item to see if their symptoms improve. If it does, honestly, that’s your first clear indicator that they probably do have a food allergy. However, it doesn’t hurt to back that up with a series of allergy tests for safe measure. Basically, they are relatively simple tests that are conducted to see what allergen or substance in the body is causing the reaction that your child is having. This can be done with a skin prick test, a skin patch test, an intradermal test (all three of those are skin tests) or a blood test. All are relatively painless and the results can be received within about 24-72 hours. Once you’re sure of what is causing the side effects, you can then discuss with your pediatrician or family practitioner things that you can do to keep the symptoms at bay. Food, for your child, shouldn’t be the enemy. If you know what’s causing them problems, it won’t.