Food Allergy

Food Allergy

 

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is a condition where the immune system reacts to a food because it thinks the food is harmful. Someone who has a food allergy may have an allergic reaction after eating a food that he/she is allergic to.

Most allergic reactions occur within minutes of ingesting an allergen and may lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as hives, swelling, itchiness, difficulty breathing, nausea, upset stomach, vomiting, lightheadedness and more. Anaphylaxis is a serious life-threatening allergic reaction.

Other allergic reactions, such as Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES), may not occur until hours after ingesting an allergen.

How do you diagnose a food allergy?

The most important tool for diagnosing a food allergy is a thorough review of the details of the reaction(s). It may be helpful to bring the following with you to the appointment if you are worried about a food allergy:

- A detailed timeline of the events around the time of the reaction(s)

- Photographs of any rashes during the reaction

- Ingredient lists of the food(s) suspected to have caused the reaction(s)

- A small amount of the actual food(s) suspected to have caused the reaction(s)


Skin tests and blood tests for food allergies can be helpful in some cases, but not all of them. Based on the details of the reaction(s), your allergist will determine which patients need extra testing.

How do you manage a food allergy?

AVOID THE ALLERGEN

  • Read labels using the "Triple Check" method

    • Once at the store before buying it

    • Once when you get home and put it away

    • Again before you serve or eat the product

  • Be careful to avoid cross-contamination

    • Do not share utensils

    • “May contain traces” foods should also be avoided


BE PREPARED

OPTIMIZE NUTRITION

  • A nutritionally balanced diet is important for every child and sometimes this may be challenging when the diet needs to be restricted

  • Consider speaking with a dietician to ensure your child’s nutritional needs are met

SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD

  • Being diagnosed with a food allergy may be stressful for some children

  • Encourage your child to openly share their feelings and worries

  • It is also important to empower your child by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities in managing their own food allergy

  • Ask your allergist for tips and suggestions if needed

OTHER MANAGEMENT OPTIONS

  • Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is a promising alternative management option for food allergy and we are now offering it for peanut allergy in select children

  • With more research, other options for managing food allergies may become available in the future. Stay tuned! 

Prevention of food allergies

  • We have recently learned that the best way to prevent development of a food allergy is through early introduction of allergenic foods. These foods include: dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and sesame.

  • Once your child is 4 - 6 months of age and starts to show interest in eating solids, you should introduce these foods to them in developmentally appropriate forms and keep them in your child's diet on a regular basis.

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Disclaimer: This website is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide medical advice and should not be treated as such. For personal medical questions related to allergies, please speak directly with your physician. If you require emergency medical attention, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 911.

©2018 by Dr. Willa Liao, Kingston Pediatric Allergy