Allergy Basics


True food allergies are not as common as most people believe and only affect a very small % of children, although they are more common in younger children . Fortunately, most younger children will outgrow these food allergies between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. The most common allergy-causing foods are peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, etc.), dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

What is an allergy?

An allergic reaction happens  when the bodies immune system mistakes something like a food or pollen as a harmful and dangerous invader.  The body reacts by releasing antibodies called immunoglobulin E(IgE).  The IgE in turn prompts the body to release chemicals known as histamines. When the histamines are released, the body reacts by producing symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, a skin rash and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.  In a food allergy, the body’s immune system is involved.

What are some of the symptoms of food allergy?

The most common symptom of a food-allergy reaction  is a rash. Other symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • tingling in the mouth
  • swelling of the tongue and throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • stomach cramps
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • eczema

How can I  establish if my child has an allergy?

With severe food allergies, your child would have gone into Anaphylactic shock which is described as A widespread and very serious allergic reaction. Symptoms include dizziness, loss of consciousness, labored breathing, swelling of the tongue and breathing tubes, blueness of the skin, low blood pressure, heart failure, and death. Immediate emergency treatment is required for this type of shock. If your child is 12 months or older, he or she can be tested for allergies. Depending on which allergies they suspect your child has they will either do a Skin test or a blood test which will determine what your child is allergic to. If your child is younger than 12 months and did not go into Anaphylactic shock , then the best way to establish if your child has an allergy is to start a food diary.  The reason for this is that children don’t only have allergic reactions to food they have  tried for the first time.  It can take time for the immune system to build up enough of a response to cause noticeable symptoms. Like in my daughters case, it took the first four weeks of her life before her symptoms started and I was eating dairy from day one.  So your child could be allergic to a food even though he or she has eaten it many times before without problems.

How can I treat these symptoms?

Your doctor will tell you what kind of medicine you need to take.

How can I prevent a reaction from happening?

Strictly avoiding the food that triggers your allergy is the only way to prevent a reaction.

Is there a cure for food allergy?

Currently, there is no cure for food allergies; however, the research being conducted looks promising!

Food Intolerance basics

More common than food allergies are intolerances to certain foods, which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea , spitting up, and skin rashes.  An intolerance does not involve the immune system like an allergy does. An example of such a reaction occurs in children with lactose intolerance, which occurs because of a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which normally breaks down the sugar lactose. Children without this enzyme or who have a decreased amount of the enzyme, develop symptoms after drinking lactose containing food products, such as cow’s milk. However, because this reaction does not involve the immune system, it is not a real food allergy.