As your baby enters the world of solid food, it’s really important for parents to be aware of the most common types of food that could cause an allergic reaction in your child.
We spoke to Shania Khialani, a qualified nutritionist/dietitian at Marie-Claire O’Shea Dietitians, to bring you some information on allergy-causing foods. According to Shania, food allergies affect up to 8% of children and are most prevalent among children aged less than five years.
She says the most common food allergens among children include peanuts, cow’s milk, shellfish, tree nuts, seeds, eggs, soy, fish and wheat.
Skin prick tests or allergy blood tests can be useful in confirming or excluding potential allergy triggers. Shania also said that a temporary elimination diet under close medical and dietetic supervision, followed by food challenges, may also be needed to determine the cause of the allergy.
She further advised that unsupervised restricted diets over long periods are not recommended as this can affect growth rates and food aversion among children.
To find out more information about 6 common foods that may give your kids an allergic reaction, click on the next slide.
Egg allergy usually first appears when kids are very young. According to medical experts, the good news is that most kids outgrow an egg allergy by the time they’re 5 years old. However, some do remain allergic beyond this age, too.
Medical experts explain that when a child is allergic to eggs (or any other food), his immune system reacts to proteins, usually found in the egg white. The body thinks these proteins are harmful invaders and the immune system releases chemicals like histamine to “fight off” the invader.
The release of such chemicals can cause symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, throat tightness, stomachache, vomiting and/or diarrhea, a drop in blood pressure, hives, red spots and/or itchy, watery, or swollen eyes. In extreme cases, egg allergies can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis, which may begin with some of the above symptoms but quickly worsens. If it’s not treated, anaphylaxis can be life threatening.
If you are planning to introduce eggs to your baby, remember to start with the yolk. Once you have ruled out that he is not showing any allergic reactions to the yolk, experts recommend introducing the white after one year of age. If your child displays any symptoms of allergy to this food, consult his pediatrician.
Another point to remember: the viruses for the flu vaccine are often grown in chicken eggs. So if your child has an egg allergy and you are thinking of giving him the flu shot, always ask the doctor if it’s a good idea.
All babies can be fussy at times. But excessive fussiness may be due to an allergy to the protein in cow’s milk, which is the basis for most commercial baby formulas.
Medical experts say that around 2% to 3% of infants may have a milk allergy, though most outgrow it. The symptoms may be the same as those displayed for an egg allergy (see previous slide). Most kids who are allergic to cow’s milk unfortunately also react to goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, and some of them are also allergic to the protein in soy milk.
If you think that your child has a milk allergy, talk with your doctor about testing and alternatives to milk-based formulas and dairy products.
Remember, a milk allergy is different to a child being lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is caused by a child’s stomach’s inability to properly digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk.
An increasing number of kids these days are allergic to a variety of nuts, most commonly peanuts. A nut or peanut allergy can cause difficulty in breathing and other very serious health problems, which is why it’s imperative for a child with such an allergy to steer clear of nuts or products with nuts in them.
According to medical experts, reactions can range from hives and itching to severe anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
To parents of kids with nut allergies: read food labels very carefully because even if a particular food doesn’t contain nuts, it might have been manufactured by machinery that also processes nuts. If this is the case, there will be a clear warning on the box.
As with all other food allergies, contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if you suspect your child is having an allergic reaction to nuts.
A shellfish allergy and a seafood allergy are not the same things. Seafood includes both fish (like tuna and threadfin) and shellfish (like prawns, lobster and clams). Even though they both fall into the category of “seafood,” fish and shellfish are biologically different. So fish will not cause an allergic reaction in a child with a shellfish allergy — unless that child also has a fish allergy.
The two different types of shellfish allergy are: 1. Crustaceans (e.g. prawns, crab, lobster) 2. Mollusks (e.g. clams, mussels, oysters, scallops)
Although most allergic reactions to shellfish happen when someone eats them, sometimes a person can react from simply touching shellfish or even breathing in vapors from cooking shellfish.
Experts say that shellfish allergy can develop at any age. Even kids who have eaten shellfish in the past can develop an allergy. Some children outgrow certain food allergies over time, but those with shellfish allergies usually have the allergy for the rest of their lives.
A shellfish allergy can cause a very serious reaction, even if a previous reaction was mild. So anyone with this allergy should completely avoid shellfish.
If your child has been diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, medical experts advise keeping injectable epinephrine on hand in case of a severe reaction. This is a medicine that your doctor can prescribe. Communicate emergency plans with anyone who will be taking care of your child, including relatives and school officials. Also consider having your child wear a medical alert bracelet.
Soy is a common food ingredient in food but it is also a common cause of food allergy. Soy comes from soybeans, which belong in the legume family (along with beans, lentils, peas and peanuts).
Soy allergy is more common in infants and kids than teens and adults, but can develop at any age. As with other food allergies explained in previous slides, the body of a child with soy allergy will react by producing histamine, which results in symptoms ranging from mild itching to severe anaphylaxis (this is rare in kids with soy allergy, though).
If your child has been diagnosed with a life-threatening soy allergy (or any kind of life-threatening food allergy), the doctor will want your child to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency. Speak to your doctor for more information and if you have any concerns regarding soy allergy.
When a child has a wheat allergy, his body’s immune system, which normally fights infections, overreacts to proteins in the wheat. As in the case of other food allergies, the body produces the chemical histamine in reaction to these proteins, which may result in a range of physical symptoms (see previous slides).
Parents should be aware that wheat allergy and celiac disease are two different things. While a wheat allergy, as explained before, involves a reaction to protein in wheat, celiac disease involves another substance found in wheat known as gluten. Celiac disease does not cause an allergic reaction. With celiac disease, there is a different type of immune system response in the intestines, causing a problem with the absorption of food.
While people with wheat allergy can usually eat other grains, people with celiac disease cannot eat any food containing gluten. Gluten is found not just in wheat, but also in other grains such as barley, rye and sometimes oats.
As in the case with all food allergies, if you suspect your child has a wheat allergy, consult his pediatrician immediately.