It seems like kids and adults alike have more allergies and sensitivities to food now than ever before. And while some people might look at that as a bad thing, it’s actually an asset that people are able to realize earlier and more acutely what their bodies need. That way, when it comes to you and your kids, you can make sure you’re fueling your bodies with exactly what you need. But that begs the question — how exactly can you tell if your children even have food allergies? Will you only be able to learn once it’s too late? And what should you do if your child has an allergic reaction?
While, of course, you can go around avoiding the common allergens in the hopes of pure protection, there are other ways to determine and deal with food allergies. Whether you’re simply wondering if your child has allergies or you suspect that they might be allergic to something in particular, it’s usually worth it to understand the low-down on allergies and how to deal with them. Even if your child has no allergies at all, knowing about allergies can help in case they have a friend with allergies or in case they develop them later on. So, here’s a bit about what you need to know about food allergies.
What is a Food Allergy?
The first thing to get straight is the exact definition of a food allergy. A food allergy is a condition in which the body’s immune system recognizes a harmless food as a potentially harmful substance and forms an inflammatory response to that food. They can come in a variety of different severities, but many food allergies can be life threatening, so it’s important to be cautious when it comes to food allergies and allergens.
When They Develop
While many children develop food allergies before the age of six, people can develop allergies and intolerances at any age. If your child is young enough that they’re only breast feeding or eating formula, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to tell anything yet. But it is possible for allergies and sensitivities to show up at any age.
If you’re curious about allergies and what to keep an eye out for, there are certainly some triggers that are much more common than others. Most people are familiar with some of the more common allergens — peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy and wheat. While it is possible to be allergic to just about anything, some of the more common triggers are usually the best to check on first.
Allergies vs. Sensitivities
One of the biggest points of conversation around food allergies in recent years is the difference between allergies and sensitivities or intolerances, which are different, although they can sometimes manifest in similar ways. For example, lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance or sensitivity is fairly common, although different from an allergy. While allergies can result in immune responses and even anaphylaxis, intolerances usually result in an irritating response like a stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhea and bloating. Neither is fun, and both should be treated seriously, but it is helpful to know which one your child has — as you don’t want to stick your child with an epipen needlessly.
Some of the most common foods that people can be sensitive to are milk, dairy products in general, eggs, gluten, food dyes and food additives. Another form of a gluten intolerance is celiac disease, which is an immune response, though it differs slightly from traditional allergies.
If you think your child might have a food allergy or intolerance, the best thing you can do is take them to a doctor and discuss the situation with a trusted medical professional. There are a few ways people tend to test for allergies and intolerances, and your doctor will likely guide you through whatever process seems right for you and your child. Some private companies and doctors’ offices offer testing kids that can guide you in the right direction, but always go by the discretion of your doctor and what they recommend.
Your doctor might also recommend doing an elimination diet, where you introduce foods slowly back into your child’s diet to see what their body reacts to. They might also conduct other tests, like skin or blood tests depending on the allergy in question.
Listening to the Body
One of the best ways to determine your next steps is to simply remind your child to listen to their body and communicate with them about it. Your child can tell how they feel, even if it takes a bit of communication to figure things out. Especially when it comes to sensitivities and intolerances, this can make a huge difference.
Does Your Child Have Food Allergies?
Determining if your child has food allergies is all about communicating with them, getting professional opinions and educating yourself. Whether your child has allergies, sensitivities or nothing at all, it’s still important to learn about your child’s needs as much as you can.