Food allergies affect nearly 5 per cent of young children under the age of five. Avoiding the foods that bring on the symptoms is the main objective of treatment.

Food allergy is not uncommon, especially in winter when people go for binge eating with less physical activity and exercise. Food allergy is commonly referred to as an atypical bodily reaction to certain food items. When IgE antibodies react with the food, histamines are generated, and your child may develop hives, asthma, mouth itching, breathing difficulties, stomach discomfort, vomiting, and/or diarrhoea as a result.

An immune system reaction brought on by a food allergy results in symptoms in your child that can be uncomfortable or even fatal. The immune system is unaffected by food intolerance, despite the fact that some symptoms may overlap with those of food allergies. In kids, wheat, dairy products, peanuts, soy, and tree nuts among others are the most common items that may cause food allergies. Sometimes, the most severe and painful reactions are caused by nuts, fish and shellfish.

Food allergies affect nearly 5 per cent of young children under the age of five. Between 1997 and 2007, there was an 18 per cent increase in the reported prevalence of food allergies among children under the age of 18.

Symptoms of food allergy in children

Allergies to fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts may not be "outgrown" by most kids; instead, they may last a lifetime. After eating the item, allergic symptoms may appear anywhere from a few minutes to an hour later. It is found that some symptoms vary from one child to another. Hence, one should not generalise the symptoms which may vary from person to person. Vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth, itching or tightness in the throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and lowered blood pressure are just a few of the symptoms that may appear. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, extremely allergic individuals just need a small amount of food to experience a severe reaction.

Treatment of food allergy in children

Usually, food allergies are not prevented or treated by medication. Avoiding the meals that bring on the symptoms is the main objective of treatment. Avoiding these foods and others in that food group that are comparable is crucial. Women who breastfeed their children should immediately avoid eating foods that kids are allergic to. Small quantities of the food allergen may induce an allergic reaction in your child if they are exposed to it through breast milk. A doctor may recommend an emergency kit with epinephrine, which helps stop the symptoms of severe responses, in the event of a severe food allergy.

After three to six months, some foods may be reintroduced to some kids to test if they have outgrown their allergies. After the age of three or four, food may be tolerated, and many childhood allergies may be transient.

Usually, food allergies to milk and soy are found in infants and kids. The symptoms may include:

  • Colic (fussy baby)
  • Blood in the children's stool
  • Compromised growth

Although the progression of food allergies in newborns cannot be stopped, they can frequently be delayed with some preventive measures:

  • If at all feasible, breastfeed your newborn for the first six months. Do not introduce solid foods to your child until they are at least six months old
  • During your child's first year of life, stay away from cow's milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts, and seafood.

Tips for managing food allergies

  • Be aware of the ingredients in the meal you will be eating at the restaurant. Whenever possible, get a menu from the restaurant in advance and look through the offerings.
  • It is strongly recommended that the children's food allergy must be told to the server at once. He or she ought to be familiar with the materials and preparation methods for each dish. Before you order, enquire about the process and ingredients.
  • Steer clear of buffet-style or family-style serving because the use of the same utensils for several meals could lead to cross-contamination of the food.
  • Steer clear of fried foods because multiple dishes may be fried in the same oil.

The author is Dr. Priyanka Udawat, Paediatric Gastroenterologist, SRCC Children's Hospital, managed by Narayana Health.

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