food allergy

Watching your children explore the world around them is an experience like no other. It can become concerning, however, if your child encounters something in this wide world and starts to have an adverse reaction to it. You could be among the 34% of Americans who visit casual dining restaurants once a week when your child suddenly feels poorly after trying a simple milkshake for the first time. As a parent, you feel a responsibility to protect your child from any potential harm, even milkshakes, but predicting allergies before they develop isn’t an easy feat.

Luckily, there are certain signs you can look for so that you can catch potential allergies early on. Once you know the signs, you’ll be able to find the right treatment options as well.

Seasonal Allergies

Also know as hay fever, seasonal allergies are the most common form of allergy in children. These allergies typically cause symptoms during seasonal changes and affect over 6 million children every year. The changes in season are key to the onset of these allergies as this is when outdoor molds release their spores and grasses, trees, and weeds release pollen into the air.

Common symptoms of seasonal allergies often resemble those of a cold. These symptoms include nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and an itchy nose or throat. Eyes that appear itchy, water, and red also commonly accompany other allergy symptoms. If your little one is experiencing wheezing or shortness of breath as well, they may have asthma. While childhood asthma is five times less common than tooth decay, another childhood ailment, seasonal allergies can progress to asthma. If you notice your children having any of these symptoms, bring them to the doctor so that they can do a physical exam and refer you to an allergist if needed. In addition, it might be a good idea to clean the house. It may not look it, but even a carpet that looks clean can hold up to one full pound of dirt and allergens per square yard.

Food Allergies

Among children, food allergies are less common than seasonal allergies. Just 4% to 6%of kids in the United States have food allergies, causing the immune system to overreact and produce antibodies to the food as if it were a virus. This results in allergy symptoms and affects different organs in the body. Unlike most reactions to seasonal allergies, reactions to food allergies can be severe and life-threatening. Yet, most parents won’t know if their child is allergic to a certain food until they try it.

The best way to be vigilant about food allergies is to know the signs. Within a few minutes to an hour after eating the culprit, a child will develop one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Congestion or a runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red, itchy bumps on the skin and/or a red, itchy rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing

As young children can’t always explain symptoms like these clearly, they may be having an allergic reaction if they say their tongue is too big, their mouth itches, there is something stuck in their throat, or that things are spinning.

You can also be proactive about spotting food allergies by knowing the most common edible allergens. These triggers include eggs, peanuts and tree nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts), cow’s milk, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Luckily, biotech companies like Aimmune Therapies have been trying a technique known as oral immunotherapy to help those with food allergies develop a tolerance to their allergens. They start by giving patients an incredibly small quantity of the allergen so that they won’t react to it and slowly build it up.

The clinic trials of these types of immunotherapy treatments have been promising, but aren’t quite ready yet. And although the job outgrowth in the biomedical field is estimated at 23%, indicating even more progress in this method, you’ll need to rely on other treatment methods for your child’s food allergy for now. Always bring your child to the doctor if you think they have a food allergy and once your doctor diagnoses a food allergy, make sure your child avoids that food at home, school, and everywhere else.

A severe allergic reaction to food, known as anaphylaxis, warrants a call to 911. While urgent care centers in the U.S. can handle an average of three patient care visits per hour, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and needs emergency medical help rather than a more relaxed visit to urgent care. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, wheezing, fainting, and chest pain. Children who have this severe reaction should have an epinephrine auto-injector with them at all times. Both they child and the adults in their life need to learn how to use the injector in case of a reaction.

With talks of severe reactions, emergency rooms, and injectors, allergies can seem very scary. Keep in mind that most allergies are fairly minor, such as a simple skin allergy to synthetic suede that produces eczema or a rash. Better yet, children can outgrow even the most severe food allergies. Protect them for now by knowing the common triggers and symptoms and always have your doctor’s number handy.