Food Allergy in Children: What Is True and What Is False
Food allergies are a major concern of many parents who believe that their child may have an allergy to everything. Their desire to protect their kid is understood, but it is important not to turn their worries into unreasonable fears. In reality, the risk of food allergies really exists, but it is not that high as many mothers and fathers think. We will try to clear things out by going through the main facts associated with food allergies.
Fact #1: If after eating some foods your child has a symptom, this is a food allergy
Real food allergies occur only in 6-8% of children, but parents tend to believe that every reaction to foods is a symptom of an allergy. In reality, these children may have food aversion, lactose intolerance or other causes that are not the symptoms of allergies.
Food allergies and food intolerances are not the same. Food allergies are related to a mediated reaction of the immune system, involving antibody IgE, which results in release of histamine by certain immune system cells. This is how most symptoms of a food allergy occur.
Fact #2: Food allergies can only be caused by certain foods
Well, in fact, only certain foods come with a higher risk of severe food allergies, but an allergic reaction in children can occur due to almost any food, including vegetables and fruits. The following foods are most likely to cause allergic reactions:
Fact #3: Children cannot outgrow their food allergies
Children can outgrow their food allergies, but it really depends on the food causing it. Usually, it takes 2-3 years to eliminate allergies to certain foods. Over 85% of children outgrow their allergies to milk, but fewer kids outgrow their allergies to seafood, tree nuts or peanuts. Anyway, about 20% of children can outgrow an allergy to peanuts.
Fact #4: Food allergy to peanuts is the most common in children
Peanut allergies are associated with a high risk of anaphylaxis, but cow’s milk causes an allergic reaction more often in young children.
Fact #5: You have a food allergy if a blood allergy test shows positive antibody level
Some of the allergy tests like Immunocap RAST and RAST do not have “yes” or “no” answers. They show an antibody level, which ranges from low or very high. Children with low or moderate antibody levels may not have an allergy to those foods. Test results should be interpreted considering the symptoms that a kid has after eating certain foods. For instance, if RAST testing shows low antibodies levels for egg whites, but your kid eats eggs every day without any symptoms, he or she is unlikely to be allergic to eggs. Unfortunately, the results of these tests are often interpreted incorrectly, making you believe that your kid is allergic to everything.
Fact #6: Cooked food does not cause allergy
An allergic reaction is often caused by proteins, and some people think that cooked foods have altered protein, which can prevent this reaction. That is why some parents think that even if a child has an allergy to eggs, he or she can consume cooked products with eggs, such as cakes. According to the AAAAI, most foods can cause allergic reactions even if they are cooked, although some vegetables, fruit and other foods can only cause an allergy if they are eaten raw.
Fact #7: Although your kid has an allergy to food, he or she can eat it a little bit sometimes
Even if no reaction occurs after eating a small portion of food this time, it does not mean that severe reactions will not occur the next time. In order to outgrow a food allergy, it is important to avoid eating the product for several years. Otherwise, it decreases your kid’s chances to get rid of it over time.
Fact #8: Food allergies are not real
Food allergies do exist, and they can be dangerous. Some people are so allergic that it is just enough for them to touch food to experience an allergic reaction. Food allergies may be really serious, and that is why you should be serious about them, especially if it concerns your child.
Fact #9: It is not a problem to avoid eating foods causing allergy in your kid
It is easy to avoid eating such products as eggs or milk, but you should not forget that those foods can be used as ingredients in other foods. This means that each time before giving something to your kid, you should make sure that it does not contain foods that cause an allergic reaction in your child. Every time you should read food labels of processed foods, and if you have a meal at a restaurant, you should ask about the ingredients. It is also important to check that your kids will not consume forbidden products at school or at friend’s.
Fact #10: Food allergies are not serious
Allergic reactions can be fatal. About 150 people die annually from severe allergic reactions. The following are some known cases when a child or teenager with an allergy to peanuts could not survive the reactions:
• A child aged 9 years old ate a cookie on a school outing;
• A child aged 12 years old ate an egg roll;
• A teenager aged 18 ate a wrap;
• A teenager aged 17 ate a cookie at a friend’s home;
• A teenager aged 17 ate peanut butter in a camp;
• A child aged 14 ate an egg roll at a restaurant;
• A child aged 5 ate peanuts at home;
• A child aged 11 ate a candied apple at a carnival;
• A child aged 13 ate a wrap at a fast food restaurant;
• A teenager aged 16 ate a cookie at a friend’s home.
The following are some known cases when a child or teenager with an allergy to milk could not survive a severe allergic reaction:
• A teenager aged 16 ate bread at home;
• A child aged 9 drank milk in a camp;
• A teenager aged 17 drank a protein shake at home;
• A child aged 7 drank a chocolate mix drink at home;
These are just several cases that were reported. If your kid has an allergic reaction to certain foods, you should teach him or her how to avoid eating these foods and explain why. Also you should make sure that your child always has an EpiPen to manage a severe allergic reaction.