It is important to understand that food allergy is not the same as food intolerance, which does not affect the immune system but may exhibit some of the same symptoms.
A food allergy is an abnormal response of the body to a particular food. It happens when the immune system responds to a type of food which is typically harmless. Food intolerance happens when the body has a chemical reaction to eating a specific food or drink.
Symptoms of food allergies in children
Symptoms of food allergies in children may include diarrhoea, vomiting, eczema, swelling, tightness in the throat, and wheezing.
An allergic reaction can last anywhere from a few minutes to several days depending on its severity and type. It could disappear naturally in as little as a few hours or even last several days. Even with the right treatment, some allergic reactions can last up to four weeks.
Common food allergens
Some of the common foods which can cause allergies in some children are eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and milk.
Diagnosis and treatment options for food allergy in children
If your child is suspected to have a food allergy, the doctor will ask about the duration of time between eating a particular food, symptoms exhibited in your child, and whether any family members suffer from allergies, asthma, or eczema.
There is no medication to prevent food allergies. The best course of action is to avoid the foods and any others in the same food group that cause symptoms. Likewise, it is essential to give nutrients and minerals to your children to supplement their diet if their allergies result in them not easily having a balanced diet.
Ways to reduce the risk of food allergies in children
Some of the ways to reduce the risk of food allergies in children include breastfeeding your child for at least 6 months, eat a balanced and nutritious diet while pregnant, avoid fried because the same oil may be used to fry multiple foods, monitor when introducing new food to children, and offer foods with only one ingredient and no salt or sugar.
Wait three to five days between each new food to monitor if your baby experiences a reaction such as diarrhoea, rash, or vomiting
About 80% of people who have allergies to wheat, milk, and eggs get over them by age 16. About 20% to 25% of children who have peanut allergies outgrow them, and about 80% of those who do outgrow them do so by 8 years old. Sensitivity to tree nuts, fish and shellfish might be harder to outgrow and are usually lifelong.
Managing food allergies in children
During the first year of your child's life, avoid foods that are known allergens like fish, wheat, eggs, peanuts, and cow's milk.
Always read and understand food labels and contact the manufacturer if you are unsure of an ingredient.
Dining out can be difficult for your child if they have one or more food allergies. Nevertheless, eating out can be a healthy and enjoyable experience. It takes a little planning and persistence on your part.
It is also important to have an allergen action plan, which is a document that recommends a course of treatment in the event of an allergic reaction when dealing with people who have allergies. For example, instructions on how to use an EpiPen (injection of epinephrine for severe allergic reactions and sudden asthma attacks). An EpiPen works to lessen the effects of an allergic reaction. In most cases, you will receive this injection from a doctor in a clinic or hospital.
At the time of enrolment to a school, inform the childcare provider and teachers that your child has a food allergy so that they are aware and necessary precautions can be put in place.
Teach your child which foods to avoid. Be a role model when trying to teach your child healthy eating habits. Choose nutritious snacks and do not skip meals or replace mealtimes with snacks.
Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals
A dedicated and expert team of specialists at Pantai Hospitals is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance to patients through screening, diagnosis, and treatment.
If your child is experiencing severe allergic reactions, call for an ambulance immediately or head straight to the nearest Pantai Hospitals Accident and Emergency (A&E).
Pantai Hospitals have been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.