image for food allergy articleIt can sometimes feel like children with food allergies surround you. Your best friend is breastfeeding and cannot eat dairy because her baby is allergic. You cannot pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your child’s lunch because her classmates may be allergic. Deviled eggs are off limits at family gatherings because of your nephew’s allergy.

With all the buzz about food allergies, you may be wondering how you can protect your child. Learn the basics about food allergies and if there is anything you can do to keep your child allergy-free.

When someone has a food allergy, their immune system reacts to a food they eat. Reactions can range from mild, to severe, to life-threatening. Some of the most common reactions include:

  • Hives
  • Runny nose
  • Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Upset stomach, cramps, bloating, or diarrhea
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylactic shock—This is a life-threatening reaction that requires medical care right away.

Infants and children can be allergic to a variety of foods. The most common are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts and tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews)
  • Cereal grains such as wheat and barley

If you or your child’s doctor think that your child has a food allergy, your child may need to be tested. Food allergies are most often diagnosed through skin tests and blood tests.

How Common Are Food Allergies?

Food allergies affect 1 out of every 13 children less than 18 years of age in the United States. In recent years, the number of children with food allergies has been increasing, especially peanut allergy. This has many doctors worried.