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Food allergies in children.

The Food Allergy Research and Education center in the United States shows that 1 out of every 13 children is allergic to at least one food item. Approximately 40% of those children experience severe or life threatening reactions.

Which foods are most likely to cause an allergic reaction?

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts or tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews and pistachios)
  • Cow’s milk.
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Soy products
  • Wheat

How will I know if my child/children has a food allergy?

One or more of the following symptoms may occur within a few minutes to an hour after consuming the food.

  • Red, itchy rash or bumps on the skin (eczema)
  • Shortness of breath or dizziness
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or face
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea

Is food intolerance the same as a food allergy?

No, if your child reacts to a certain food item, it does not necessarily mean that they are allergic. Some reactions are caused by intolerance to certain foods. An allergy involves the child’s immune system, while an intolerance involves the digestive system. In general food intolerances are much more common compared to food allergies.

When children are allergic to a certain food item, it usually has to be avoided/excluded from the diet entirely. However, a food intolerance is not as serious as the child may still be able to consume small amounts of the food item causing the intolerance.

The most common food intolerances are:

  • Lactose intolerance: when the body is lacking the enzyme to break down the sugar that occurs naturally in milk. Symptoms usually include flatulence (gas), diarrhea or feeling bloated.
  • Gluten sensitivity: when the body reacts to the protein (gluten) in grain products. Symptoms include headache, stomach cramps and bloating. This excludes celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten sensitivity and involves the immune system.
  • Food additives sensitivity: when the body reacts to colorants, sulphites and emulsifiers added in food for preservation or to increase their sensation. Symptoms usually includes rash, diarhhea or vomiting.

What do I do if I suspect my child has an allergy?

If you suspect your child has a food allergy or intolerance, visit your pediatrician or dietitian. The doctor will be able to diagnose the allergy while a dietitian may assist in developing a healthy meal plan for your child.

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