How to determine if a child has a food allergy

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If the child’s family has a history of eczema, hay fever, asthma or food allergies, then they’re more likely to develop similar allergies. To help lower the risk and severity of allergies, mothers should exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months.

What is a food allergy?

Allergies occur when your body reacts to allergens (particles that your body considers foreign) and your immune system then works in overtime to reduce them. As a result of this activity, a chemical called histamine is released in your body which cause symptoms of hives or swelling.

How to determine if the child is having an allergic reaction

In the UK, the most common allergies include peanuts, whilst worldwide the most common allergies are milk and eggs!

If the child suffers from any of the following symptoms after eating, they could be having an immediate reaction to the food they’ve ingested:

  • Sore, red and itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin or rash (hives)
  • Swollen lips and face or eyes
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Itchy mouth or throat
  • Tummy cramps
  • Nausea

Symptoms of a delayed allergic reaction:

  • Eczema
  • Reflux
  • Poor growth
  • Swelling of the small bowel
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Raising knees to chest with tummy pain
  • Frequent distress and crying

Anaphylactic shock

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening and tends to develop very quickly. The symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:

  • Itchy skin or a raised red skin rash
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Wheezing or chest tightness
  • Swollen eyes, lips, hands and feet
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling of the mouth, throat or tongue – which can result in difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Collapse and unconsciousness

If this occurs, then you should treat the situation as a medical emergency and dial 999 immediately.

Any suspected food allergy should be treated with the utmost concern and you should advise parents to contact their GP to book a consultation as soon as possible to discuss treatment. The GP will be able to prescribe the necessary medication to help control the child’s allergic reaction and signpost parent to a dietician for further guidance and support.

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