Here at Children’s Allergy Doctors, we understand the thought of a child suffering from a food allergy can be distressing for some parents. That’s why we offer food allergy testing to identify any allergies early so we can work to manage the condition, help to avoid any triggers and provide treatment to combat symptoms.
What Causes Child Food Allergies?
A food allergy is an abnormal response that triggers our body to think specific foods are a threat. Although these triggers can often be mild, they can lead to more serious reactions, which is why we must understand how to treat them. It is important not to mistake food allergies for intolerances.
Unlike intolerances, an allergy affects the immune system, which tends to be more dangerous. Although they may share some similar symptoms, they are treated and managed differently. Unfortunately, food allergies have become more common as time has developed, with varying types of allergies emerging, such as non-IgE and IgE.
Non-IgE Vs IgE mediated Food Allergies
Food allergies can be divided into two types:
IgE is a type of antibody in your immune system. It leads to quick reactions in the body after eating food, usually after a few minutes. Small quantities of food protein bind to IgE receptors in the body. This causes inflammatory chemicals to release, leading to a reaction. Non-IgE allergies are more delayed. They can occur hours, and sometimes days after eating food. Typically, the food causes responses in the gastrointestinal tract or skin. They are more challenging to treat and diagnose than IgE-mediated reactions.
Common Trigger Foods
Several types of food are known to cause around 90% of food allergies. These are:
- Tree nuts
Be aware that any food can cause an allergy. However, certain foods have more likelihood of leading to serious symptoms, such as peanuts and tree nuts which is why at Children’s Allergy doctors we prescribe adrenaline to all children with peanut or tree nut allergies once they are of a suitable weight.
There is another type of food allergy called pollen food syndrome (also called oral allergy syndrome). This is when a person with a pollen allergy has a reaction after eating certain types of raw fruit, nuts or vegetables. This usually causes symptoms like itching or tingling in the lips and mouth, swelling of the tongue and lips and abdominal pain. However, pollen food syndrome very rarely results in anaphylaxis.
Symptoms Of Food Allergies In Children
There are several symptoms associated with food allergies that parents should look for in young children, toddlers and babies:
- Itchy rash (hives)
- Runny, itchy nose
- Skin redness
- Swelling of lips, face, or around the eyes.
- Severe allergic reactions can lead to anaphylaxis, which can affect breathing, the cardiovascular system or consciousness
The symptoms of non-IgE allergies differ from IgE allergies. Non-IgE food allergies are more likely to cause diarrhoea, vomiting and bloating or an eczema flare. IgE reactions are more likely to lead to hives, swelling, vomiting and immediate redness of the skin.
When To Seek Paediatric Help
You should seek medical attention immediately if your child exhibits severe food allergy symptoms. Our team is on hand to give your child the attentive medical care they deserve and to help put your mind at ease. It is vital to seek paediatric help if your child shows signs of a food allergy, especially if you are unsure what the trigger is. At Children’s Allergy Doctors, we can conduct a range of allergy tests to assist in a diagnosis.
Children’s Food Allergy Testing
Before your paediatrician can come to a confident diagnosis for your child, they will need to take several factors into consideration. Expect to answer some questions on behalf of your child regarding their symptoms, the timing of events and which food the child ingested prior to the reaction and your family history of allergies.
A skin prick test is commonly used in allergy testing. A small extract of the suspected food will be placed on your child’s arm, before a medical professional pricks the skin with a small lancet. This allows a small amount of the food to enter beneath the skin. If this causes a slight bump to develop, this could signify a food allergy.
Blood tests for specific IgE can also be used to measure the immune system’s allergic response to specific foods. If your child’s paediatrician is still uncertain of the diagnosis of IgE-mediated allergy, they will offer a supervised introduction of the food in clinic or an oral food challenge in hospital to determine whether the child is allergic or tolerant.
Patch testing is also performed in our clinic to assess for delayed food allergies. A small extract of the suspected food will be placed on your child’s back under a plaster for 2 days, after which it is removed and then read 24 hours later. If there is a red raised patch this is indicative of a likely delayed non-IgE mediated allergy to that food. If your child’s paediatrician is still uncertain of the diagnosis of non-IgE mediated allergy, they can use an elimination method. This process involves removing the suspected food from your child’s diet for a couple of weeks before reintroducing it. It can help link symptoms to specific foods.
Treatment For Children’s Food Allergies
Unfortunately, there is no cure for food allergies. However, there are some methods that parents can use to help make their children’s food allergies more manageable. Avoidance of trigger foods is the primary method. Eliminating foods that cause a reaction and identify alternative foods that your child can enjoy and maintain their growth and nutrition. We work closely with dietitians and provide lots of written information and online resources to help with this.
Emergency training of reactions is also advised for parents as well as a personalised allergy action plan for all families. We offer this here at Children’s Allergy Doctors to help prepare parents in the event of a severe reaction.
Furthermore, we offer food allergy desensitisation to cow’s milk, egg, nuts and sesame to gradually introduce increasing amounts of foods they are allergic to into their diet in order to build a tolerance and reduce symptoms of accidental exposure.
Managing Your Child’s Food Allergies
If your young child or baby suffers from food allergies, there are a few steps that can help manage their food allergies. Be mindful when eating out. Always ask for an allergy-specific menu and read it thoroughly before ordering. If your children are eating takeaway food or food prepared in live environments, caution is necessary. Educating your children is also important. It can be useful to teach them how to read food labels. Make them aware of the allergens they need to avoid.
As well as managing the condition, there are also some tips that can help you prevent allergies from developing in the first place.
- Take special care with feeding practices during the early years.
- Manage your child’s eczema proactively to reduce its duration and severity
- Introduce solid foods into your child’s diet from 4-6 months of age.
- Introducing allergenic foods such as peanut and egg-containing foods around 4-6 months.
Potential Food Allergy Complications
The most concerning complication in food allergies is anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening reaction to triggers of a food allergy. Symptoms include dizziness, going pale and difficulty breathing. The best way to avoid this complication is to stay away from foods that cause a reaction. Luckily, there is a treatment for anaphylaxis in the form of an adrenaline autoinjector, just like the EpiPen, Jext pen or Emerade pen. All parents are trained in how to use this and receive a personalised allergy action plan for their child’s food allergies.
Avoiding foods due to allergy can lead to nutritional deficiencies, growth restriction and feeding aversion, therefore at Children’s Allergy Doctors we work closely with dietitians and feeding specialists to prevent this.
Children tend to grow out of many food allergies, like egg and cow’s milk so while they can be serious, they are not a complication that will affect your child’s life forever. Unfortunately, some allergies are more persistent like peanut, tree nut and sesame, but Children’s Allergy Doctors offer desensitisation to these foods.
If you would like to know more about allergy testing and management, contact Children’s Allergy Doctors today. We offer a range of helpful services and can educate parents on how to deal with these allergies effectively.
What parents say:
“Amazing experience as Dr Brough was very knowledgeable but also kind. She made me feel at ease with the treatment and all it involved. Very patient and welcoming.”