Symptoms of food allergies in babies and children

Many of us are aware of the fact that allergies exist, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand what causes them. When it comes to a food allergy, it’s basically when our immune system processes some kind of protein as a foreign substance in the body and then, as a direct result, rejects it. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, if one parent has an allergy, there’s a 1 in 3 chance that their children will have one as well. If both parents have one, the risk increases to 7 in 10.

There is currently no cure for allergies, but there are things that can be done to manage the problem. As it relates to food allergies in babies and children, one of the first steps that must be taken is detecting the symptoms that they have.
Food Allergies in Babies.

Because introducing babies to food is a naturally gradual process, in many ways, it’s easier (and quicker) to detect a food allergy in them than children of an older age. Although there are reportedly over 160 different kinds of allergenic foods, there are eight main ones that you should be especially aware of. When it comes to eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat and nuts like walnuts, almonds and peanuts, make a concerted effort to see how your baby responds to these kinds of foods (especially milk and soy since they will probably be consuming these before any of the others). If your baby is allergic to a certain kind of food, symptoms will present themselves anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. These symptoms include hives, skin rash, swelling of the face or tongue (or airways), vomiting, wheezing or even a loss of consciousness.
Food Allergies in Children.

While these same rules apply for older kids, as they are being introduced to more varieties of food, it’s good to know that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Again, an allergy is related to how your immune system reacts to a food. If someone has a food intolerance, that’s more about how their digestive system responds. For instance, a lot of people are lactose intolerant and so when they consume dairy, they experience gas, bloating or headaches. However, food intolerance tends to have less extreme side effects. So, as you’re monitoring your child’s responses to foods, if they complain to you about not feeling well after a meal, keep a food diary to assist you with narrowing down what may be the cause of their discomfort. Also, look for additional food allergy symptoms including itchy skin, diarrhea, symptoms that mimic sinuses problems, lightheadness, weakness and anaphylaxis, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure.
What to Do About a Food Allergy

When a food allergy reaction is severe, like it affects your baby or child’s breathing or they faint as a direct result, it is imperative that they be taken to a doctor immediately. On the other hand, if you notice that your child is consistently complaining of milder symptoms or that they have one or more of the other mentioned symptoms are a fairly regular basis, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your pediatrician or family practitioner so that s/he can run a series of allergy tests. There are a variety of skin tests or a blood test that can be administered and results are back usually within 24-72 hours. After that time, it is rare that medication is needed, but your doctor will share with you an altered diet that should be given to your child and instructions on food preparation to prevent the symptoms from returning.

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  1. Kristin Beltaos says:

    Thank you for writing such an article, more awareness surrounding food allergies is always welcomed!

    My eldest son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies at 11-months and exhibited a variety of symptoms: scream cried after every breastfeeding, vomited full feedings multiple times a day, eczema, unexplained hives, severe reflux for 18-months and was in borderline failure to thrive for 18-months. He is allergic to milk (by touch and ingestion), eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame.

    I highly encourage parents who are experiencing such strife to trust their instincts. I knew something was wrong and pushed my physicians, GI and Pediatrician, as to what could be causing such horrible symptoms. I received push back that many kiddos have eczema and reflux and we do not do blood tests until a child is one year of age. That was back in 2005 and 2006.

    Years later, now that I am finally with a superb allergist, he explained that those symptoms were the early manifestations of anaphylaxis. Thankfully, my son never went into anaphylactic shock.

    Parents trust your instincts, push for answers and get second opinions when you need to! It took us 11 months to get our son properly diagnosed. He is now almost seven years old, still with food allergies, but he is happy, healthy, well-monitored and thriving.


  2. Hi Kristin

    Thanks for your wonderful comment. It is good to hear that your son is ok now. I would love to hear more about your journey.