A food allergy is a very scary allergic reaction to a particular item of food. Food allergies are usually not diagnosed until a child has been exposed to the allergen and experienced an adverse reaction.
Parents of children with food allergies know only too well how scary and unpredictable the problem can be. Often, our children are exposed to food items that have ingredients they are not completely aware of, thus exposing them to the food they are allergic to.
What is a Food Allergy
Food allergies, as opposed to food sensitivities, occur in the immune system. A true allergy to food results in a violent, life-threatening reaction caused by the immune system attacking the offending protein as it enters the body and bloodstream.
The immune system produces an antibody called IgE, which seeks out and bonds with the protein of the food that the child is allergic to. The build up of IgE proteins in the blood stream releases a torrent of chemicals that can cause itching, swelling, vomiting, fever, difficulty breathing, and many other symptoms, and can eventually lead to the systems of the body shutting down.
Most food allergies appear before a child reaches three years of life. If, however, a child is never exposed to a certain food that they have an allergy to in the toddler years, they might show an allergic reaction later in life.
Most common allergens include wheat, milk, nuts, soy, and eggs. In fact, those foods incorporate over ninety percent of the allergies children face.
Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity
There is a difference between having sensitivities to certain foods and being allergic to certain foods.
Those who merely have sensitivities to certain foods will encounter allergy-like reactions long after eating the food. Many times, there is a lapse of at least two hours before the reaction occurs.
People who have true allergies to a food will feel the effects almost immediately. These reactions will also happen each time there is ingestion of the responsible food. Although some allergies, if avoided early on, can be outgrown, there are still few that the child will still battle with even as an adult. Although some food allergies cause problems for a lifetime, many of them can be outgrown.
If you are concerned that your child may have a food allergy, it is crucial to have them screened through the use of an allergy skin test. This will eliminate any doubt in your mind about whether there is allergy present.
Once diagnosed, inform all caretakers, family, and friends about the allergy, and teach your child to ask what is in the foods that they are offered. The best way to deal with allergies in children is to completely avoid the foods that cause the reaction.
It is not practical or realistic to try to shield a child from harmful foods all the time.
Although you might be able to give your child only those foods that they are not allergic to, there is always the potential that they will eat an offending product when you are not around.
Be certain that you and your child’s caregivers always have access to medicine that will neutralize their allergic reaction. In most cases, this will be a special medical tool that administers epinephrine, otherwise known as adrenaline. Afterwards, it is vital for your child to receive quick medical attention.