Iowa Specialty Hospital

Common Child Food Allergies

August 3, 2017

Many of you probably have a friend or two with children who have food allergies. We mostly hear about peanut allergies, but there are actually eight foods that account for all child food allergies.

In the case of a food allergy, the body is reacting to what it considers to be a harmful substance. The body’s immune system creates antibodies to fight this harmful substance, known as the allergen. When a person with a food allergy comes into contact with a known allergen, the body releases chemicals, including histamine to protect itself, which can be followed by allergic symptoms including gastrointestinal issues, skin and cardiovascular reactions, respiratory issues, swelling, tingling, runny nose, rash, and more.

According to the Food Allergy Research and Education network (FARE), 1 in every 13 children in the United States under age 18 have food allergies. While less common in adults, food allergies affect nearly 15 million people in the United States.

Baby with icons of top 8 child food allergiesHere are the eight common child food allergies:

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Soy
  5. Wheat
  6. Tree Nuts (like cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.)
  7. Fish
  8. Shellfish (like crab, lobster and shrimp)

The good news is that most kids will outgrow their food allergies. Around 80% of children with milk, soy and wheat allergies will outgrow them by the time they are five. For eggs, about two-thirds of children will outgrow their allergy around age five as well.

Other allergies, such as shellfish, usually don’t develop until later and are not as likely to be outgrown. Tree nuts and peanuts are also highly unlikely to be outgrown unless a child begins a desensitization program for these with the help of a provider.

Recent studies have actually reversed the original guidelines on avoiding peanuts and are now stating to give children peanut-containing foods earlier, even as early as 4 – 6 months old, and more often to avoid an allergy. Read about these new guidelines here.

Allergies can develop at any time and can also go away at any time. Reactions can happen immediately or up to a few hours after ingestion or contact with the allergen. Mild reactions usually only include one part of the body, such as just hives and severe reactions involve multiple parts of the body such as skin and gastrointestinal issues.

Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction with two or more widespread symptoms over the whole body. This allergic reaction can be life threatening and needs immediate medical attention.

Signs your child may have a food allergy include:

  • Eczema or skin issues, including hives or rashes
  • Diarrhea after ingestion
  • Throwing up after ingestion
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing after ingestion or contact
  • Lightheadedness or nausea

Food intolerance is often mistaken for a food allergy. Many children and adults can have a food intolerance, which mostly just affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing gas, diarrhea, and indigestion.

If you feel your child has a food allergy, consult with your physician, who will typically refer you to an allergist for testing to confirm. If your child has a severe food reaction, contact 911 immediately.

While food allergies cannot be cured, most can be managed with avoidance of known foods, antihistamines, and other medications for mild symptoms.



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