How many Children suffer from Food Allergies?
Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and in most people, allergies first appear during infancy or childhood. Allergic disorders affect 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. and ranks first among children’s chronic diseases. Any child may become allergic, with a majority inheriting it genetically from their parents but only some of them will develop an active allergic disease. Most developing countries have shown startling rise in allergic reactions (almost 7 fold) in the last decade.
Testing for Allergies:
If your child has a history of infantile colic, eczema, asthma, ear infections, hayfever, seasonal allergies, digestive problems (including bloating, constipation and diarrhoea), frequent colds and any behavioural or learning problems, then you should suspect a delayed food allergy.
IgG ELISA which uses a finger-prick blood sample, is considered the best to detect the problem foods. Testing is best done under the guidance of a nutritional therapist (BANTregistered) or allergy expert who can then devise a diet for your child that avoids any allergy-provoking foods and can also recommend suitable alternatives.
TOP 8 FOOD ALLERGIES AFFECTING KIDS:
- Tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds): Tree nut reactions can also be severe resulting in itching, swelling on the lips, mouth, etc., gastric pain and respiratory problems to severe anaphylaxis, which include nausea, vomiting, weak or rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, confusion and loss of consciousness.
- Soybeans: Found in baked goods and cereals, soybeans and soy are common causes of allergies. Many times, reactions to soy start with soy-based infant formula. Reading food labels is key when a child has a soy allergy.
- Milk: Most kids post-weaning are put on Cow’s milk. Not every child’s system tolerates the new milk type. Sheep and goat milk allergies are also common. Some kids who are allergic to cow’s milk are also allergic to soy milk. A majority of them outgrow their milk allergy by the age of 3 else they should avoid milk.
- Eggs: Allergy caused by egg white is one of the most common allergies. Symptoms usually start within a few minutes or a few hours of eating eggs or foods containing egg.
- Peanuts: Minor reactions to peanuts in children can result in serious ones in with future exposure. Consult your pediatrician to take corrective action. Peanuts account for a significant proportion of severe allergic reactions.
- Crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp): Shellfish reactions can be as minor as hives and itching or severe enough to be life threatening. If you’re not sure if your toddler is allergic to shellfish, avoid it completely until you can discuss your concerns with your doctor.
- Fish (flounder, cod, bass): Fish allergies are not the same as shellfish allergies. Kids who are allergic to fish may have reactions to some types of fish, but not to others.
- Wheat: Wheat allergies should not be confused with celiac disease, where the gluten protein found in wheat causes an immune system reaction in the small intestine.
Who is Likely to Outgrow a Food Allergy?
Almost 26.6% children outgrew their allergies, at an average age of 5.4 years old.
- Children who were allergic to milk, egg, or soy were most likely to outgrow their allergies.
- The likelihood of outgrowing shellfish, tree nut, and peanut allergies was significantly lower.
- The earlier a child’s first reaction, the more likely that child was to outgrow the allergy.
Precautions and Care:
There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions to food are important measures to prevent serious health consequences:
- Take wheat and dairy products out of their diet strictly for one month and see how they feel. In any case these food groups are best not eaten frequently.
- Improve your child’s digestion by including plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, seeds and fish in their diet, which contain essential fats and zinc.
- Keep antibiotics to a minimum. These damage the digestive tract.