If you think your child has a food allergy, it is important to take the situation seriously. However, sometimes people confuse true allergies and sensitivities or intolerances. It is crucial to get clarity on what exactly plagues your child in order to develop a treatment plan.
An allergy is a full-body response where the immune system overreacts to an offending food. A sensitivity or food intolerance is a much less severe reaction that does not typically create a strong response. Most commonly stomach discomfort may be experienced.
For example, lactose intolerance can cause a lot of discomfort but is not an allergy because it does not create a full-body response in the organs. First, decide whether your child is truly allergic or just has a sensitivity or intolerance. There is a difference and it is important to get clear on what you are dealing with.
If you suspect a true food allergy, look over this list of the most common food allergy triggers in kids:
- peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and other tree nuts
- cow’s milk (children under a year should never consume cow’s milk)
- fish and shellfish
Then, seek the advice of a physician. While most allergies are not life-threatening, some can be and it is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to the possibility of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction that results in trouble breathing and swallowing. Without treatment, it is often fatal. Call 911 immediately if you see the following signs:
Signs of anaphylaxis include:
- chest pain
- breathing issues
- swelling of the lips, tongue, throat
- problems swallowing
- blue skin
- weak pulse
If/when you do find out that your child has a food allergy, talk to the doctor about whether you need to get an epinephrine auto-injector (or epi-pen) in case of emergency situations.
If the allergy is not life-threatening, the child will likely develop one or more of the following less severe symptoms within an hour after consuming the offending food:
- runny nose
- itching around the mouth or
- Itching around the ears
- red, itchy rash
- shortness of breath
- trouble breathing
- stomach pain
- strange taste in the mouth
If there is ever any question about how severe the reaction is, do not wait around to see what happens. Seek emergency medical care as soon as possible. It could truly be a lifesaver.