What is a Food Allergy? A food allergy is an immunologically mediated adverse reaction to food or food ingredients. Infants and children are particularly prone to allergies. It occurs in 5.5%-6% of infants in the first three years of life. 90% of those allergies can be attributed to five or six foods:
Cow’s milk protein
Soy Eggs Peanuts Wheat Shellfish
Young infants are more susceptible to developing food allergies due to the immaturity of the immune system.
Family History of Allergy If there is no family history: 20% – 30% chance of developing allergies
If one parent or sibling has allergies: 40-50% chance of developing allergies
If both parents have allergies: 60-70% chance of developing allergies
Kinds of Food Allergies Food allergy presents with immediate or delayed reactions. In immediate reactions, occurring within minutes to hours, the child may develop hives, wheezing, or swelling of the face as well as tightening of the chest. The reaction can be so severe that the child cannot breathe (anaphylaxis). In these cases, emergency treatment is needed. Luckily, these dangerous reactions are relatively uncommon. Delayed reactions occur from hours to days after eating the offending food.
Most Common Clinical
skin rash, eczema, hives
poor feeding, irritability, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, poor growth
Delayed reactions are the most common form of food allergies. If a careful history of your child’s symptoms and the physical examination suggest food allergy, tests may be performed to have a better handle on situation and regulate the flare-ups.
How Food Allergies are Diagnosed and Treated Skin prick tests and RAST (blood) tests are used to test foods that might cause immediate reactions. A negative test for a food tends to rule it out. A positive test means that this food might be involved, but it does not mean that the child will have an allergic response to the food. The allergy is dependent on the allergen.
Your doctor may do an endoscopy to take samples of the lining of the intestine to rule out any major inflammation caused by allergies or an immune system reaction.
A limited elimination (or hypoallergenic) diet may be recommended to indicate if symptoms go away when common allergy-causing foods are not eaten. If the child is better on the elimination diet, foods are gradually added back to see if the symptoms return. Trial and error methods are often the answer.
If Mothers are Breastfeeding Maternal avoidance of potential allergens:
Patients improve most of the time with these measures.