Parents have a tough time dealing with picky eating kids, especially when it comes to healthy foods like spinach, beets, carrots, cauliflower to name a few. However, pickiness has nothing to do with some children’s denial to eat certain foods. As per the Food Allergy Research, about 1 out of every 13 children is allergic to at least one kind of food and about 40% of those children have experienced serious, life-threatening responses.
About 90% of food allergies in children are caused by 6 common foods such as milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat. Allergies to fruits and vegetables are usually less common. When a child has a food allergy, the immune system overreacts, making antibodies to act against the food, as it were a harmful virus or foreign invader. This immune reaction is what triggers allergic symptoms.
The most common food allergy triggers in kids are:
Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios)
Fish and shellfish (shrimp, lobster)
Common Food Allergies
Allergic to peanuts are considered to be harmful as it is known to cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is categorised by a rapid onset of one or more allergic symptoms and responses, which can even be fatal at times. A person allergic to peanut does not have to eat peanuts to develop an allergic reaction, it is found that even peanut in the form of dust and a trace of peanut protein is sufficient to trigger an allergic response. Breathlessness, runny nose, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and rashes on the skin are some of the symptoms.
Milk is an integral part of a kid’s diet that promotes normal development, however, milk is also a potential allergen and some children may show allergic responses. Lactose intolerance and milk allergy are very different and even symptoms of both vary. In most cases, children overcome a milk allergy by the age of three. Omitting, nausea, upset tummy, rashes on the skin and bloody stools are some of the symptoms.
Proteins in egg whites are the main culprit that trigger an allergic response, however, the good news is that about 70% of children with an egg allergy will outgrow it gradually. Skin rashes, abdominal discomfort and respiratory problems are some of the symptoms.
Nuts that grow on trees are called tree nuts that include walnuts, almonds, hazel nuts and cashew nuts to mention a few. Tree nut allergies also lead to anaphylaxis, hence should be taken seriously. Swollen throat, abdominal cramps, itchy skin and runny nose are some of the symptoms.
If the child complaints of any uneasiness after consuming tofu, soy milk and soybeans, then the child would be allergic to soy-based products. In most instances, children will naturally overcome a soy allergy by the time they are 10 years of age. Itching in and around the mouth, vomiting, loose stools, breathing difficulties and runny nose are some of the symptoms.
Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance:
Some kids are intolerant to certain foods, the difference is that a food allergy involves the child’s immune system, on the other hand, food intolerance involves the gastrointestinal tract. Food intolerance is much more common than food allergy in children and tends to be less harmful. Where the child needs to avoid triggering food totally. Food intolerance isn’t that serious and the child may have minimal amounts of the food.
Some of the common food intolerance includes:
Lactose intolerance where the child lacks the enzyme required to break down sugar in milk. Gas, bloating and diarrhoea are some of the common symptoms.
Gluten sensitivity develops when the child reacts to a protein called gluten in wheat. Headaches, upset tummy and bloating are some of the symptoms.
Sensitivity to food additives happens when a child reacts to dyes, chemicals like sulphites or other food additives. Nausea, rashes and diarrhoea are common symptoms.
Tips To Manage Food Allergies In Children
Follow these precautionary measures to prevent exposing the child to allergies:
Always carry medicines to treat allergies in case of known cases.
Seek medical advice to check for allergies, if you have any doubt.
When the child is going out with friends for parties or school picnics, adults in charge should be informed about the child’s allergy so that they can take necessary measures.
Alternatives to food which are available should be preferred, for example, gluten-free bread.
The child should be taught to read labels on food packaging.
Kids should also be taught to inform their allergies without reluctance if they are offered something to eat.Strictly follow the dos and don’ts as advised by the doctor in case of an allergic reaction.