Preventing Food Allergies in Infants and Children
It 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. Devilled 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:
- 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:
- Peanuts and other tree nuts (eg, walnuts, cashews)
- Cereal grains (eg, wheat, 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?
Up to 4% of children less than 18 years of age in the United States have a food allergy. In recent years, the number of children with food allergies has been increasing—the rate of peanut allergy has doubled! These numbers have many doctors worried. A lot of research is being done to find ways to lower the rates of food allergies in children.
Last reviewedSeptember 2011by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.