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The Hood Magazine

Food Allergies Increasingly Common in Children

Nov 08, 2022 ● By Sanford Health

Food allergies in children continue to increase, with nearly five percent of children under five years old having a food allergy. 

These allergies are the body’s negative immune reaction to food, generally occurring after eating a particular item the second time. Though similar symptoms may develop, food allergies are different than food intolerance. A true food allergy occurs when the immune system produces Immunoglobulin E antibodies to react with the food, releasing histamines into the bloodstream and causing allergic symptoms. Food intolerance generally results in less severe symptoms, often digestive. 

Milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, or shellfish are the cause of almost all food allergies. Children’s most common causes of food allergy are eggs, milk, and peanuts. Though each child experiences symptoms differently, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts are known to cause the most severe reactions. These reactions can appear minutes to an hour after consuming the food and can include vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. Other symptoms include difficulty breathing and lowered blood pressure. Skin can also be affected, from hives to itching, swelling, or tightness of the lips, tongue, mouth, or throat. 

Allergies to milk and soy are often seen in infants and young children and can look like other health conditions. Symptoms from these food allergies include blood in the stool, colic or fussy behavior, and poor growth. 

There is no proven medication to prevent food allergies in children. Health care providers perform a variety of tests along with a physical exam and health history to determine foods causing symptoms of allergy. Once identified, it is crucial to avoid those food items. Your health care provider may prescribe an emergency kit containing epinephrine if the allergy is severe. Many children often outgrow food allergies — though peanut, tree nut, and shellfish allergies can last a lifetime.