A food allergy is a reaction to the body’s immune system in response to the ingestion of certain foods. The body’s immune system mistakenly recognises the proteins in these foods as harmful for the body. It then launches a series of reactions, or releases certain chemicals; these in turn can lead to various symptoms. A food intolerance does not involve the immune system and thus is never life threatening.
An allergic reaction can be caused even if one ingests very small amounts of the allergen containing food. The severity of the symptoms depends on the type of allergy. The time taken for the allergic reaction to show up or be identifiable can also vary from a few seconds to a few days.
Some symptoms include:
- itchy or non-itchy rash
- difficulty in breathing
- swelling of the tongue, mouth or face
- sudden drop in blood pressure
The top 6 most common food allergies in children include:
1). COW’S MILK PROTEIN ALLERGY (CMPA)
It affects almost 2-3% of babies and young children and is one of the most common food allergies. Fortunately studies show that most children will outgrow this type of food allergy as they grow older. If your child is diagnosed with CMPA, then you must avoid the following:
- cottage cheese
- clarified butter or ghee
- any products made from these
If you are breast feeding mother, you will need to exclude the above from your diet as well until you continue to nurse your baby.
Now a days many formula milk are present that are safe for babies with CMPA. Check with our paediatrician or dietitian for the right formula for your baby.
Soy allergy is most common in children below the age of 3 years. it is most likely that 70% of children with soy allergy will outgrow it as they get older. If your child continues to be allergic to soy, it is important to avoid not juts the apparent foods of soy like, tofu, milk, tempeh, soybean, etc; but also foods like soy sauce, Thai curry paste, etc. Soy is added to many foods and therefore it is important that you read the labels of all packaged foods that you buy.
It is amongst the top three food allergies in children. But almost 65-70% of children will outgrow their egg allergy by the time they are 16 years old. What is interesting is that your child may not be allergic to both egg whites and yolk necessarily, and maybe allergic to either one out of the two. This is due to the fact that the type of proteins present in egg white and yolk are different.
Avoiding eggs and foods that contain these is the easiest way to avoid an allergic reaction. But sometimes if you know the exact recipe of a food and it does not contain the allergy causing part of egg, then that food may be safe for your child to consume.
Even though peanut is called a nut, it is actually not a nut at all, but a legume. A peanut allergy is again very common and can cause a severe fatal allergic reaction. it is common to find that if a child has peanut allergy, he/she may also have other tree nuts allergies.
The current recommendation is that introducing peanuts early on to a child may be beneficial and provide protection against developing an allergy to it later on. This can be done by introducing it via the mother’s diet while breastfeeding.
Some children outgrow a peanut allergy while others do not.
Shellfish are a group of sea animals like:
Sometimes an allergy to shellfish can be so severe, that even if a child smells the vapours of the shellfish being cooked, it may set off a reaction. Thus, parents of such children are usually advised to always carry an Epinephrine injector pen.
6). TREE NUTS
Tree nuts are nuts that grow on trees. Examples include:
- brazil nuts
- pine nuts
- cashew nuts
- macadamia nut
Children with an allergy to any of these should avoid these, but also products made from these, like nut butters, oils, nut milks, nut powders, etc. It is quite possible that if your child has a tree nut allergy, it may remain for life and your child may not outgrow it.
At present, medicine does not have a cure for food allergies. Therefore it is important to be vigilant and take caution while eating out or buying packaged foods. Now a days there are very sophisticated tests available to check for various food allergies. Talk to your doctor or dietitian for recommendation.
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