How to Spot Common Food Allergies in Children

Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. This equates to one in 13 children suffering from food allergies.

Offices, classrooms and even restaurants often have signs that warn of food allergies. These signs, which were once isolated, are now commonplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the prevalence of food allergies in children has increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, and that food allergy diagnoses will likely continue to increase.

Children with a food allergy are most likely to be allergic to one of seven types of food. These foods account for 90 percent of food allergies in children:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Wheat

If a child is allergic to one of these foods, it can be life-changing for the whole family. For example, a child with a milk allergy may need a broken-down formula, or the mother may need to eliminate certain foods within her diet to breastfeed the child.

These challenges often leave parents with many questions. One of the most commonly asked questions is if children can grow out of food allergies. The short answer to this question is yes, but it varies on a case-by-case basis. Children who grow out of food allergies will normally do so around toddler age. On the other hand, kids can also grow into food allergies. Children may have a slight intolerance for some foods, which can develop into an allergy over time.

Parents who feel that their child may be developing or experiencing a food allergy should monitor the child carefully. They should also keep a food diary for three days to one week. In this diary, parents should keep track of what the child ate, how much, when they had a bowel movement or used the bathroom, any outward signs, such as hives or itching and how the child felt after eating the specific food.

The most common signs of a food allergy in children are: lethargy, diarrhea, gas, bloating, weight loss, nausea, hives, eczema or sneezing after eating a specific food. In some cases, children may sense that they are allergic to certain foods. They may then tend to avoid or dislike the food.

If you have reason to believe that your child is experiencing a food allergy, contact your pediatrician as soon as possible.

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Photo Credit: NIAID

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