eight food allergies that could affect your childBy Karen Baldree
Childhood Food Allergies are on the rise. The reason for this increase is unknown. Several theories exist but no conclusive data are available. Between 1997-2007, the prevalence of Food Allergies among children increased 18%.1 It is now estimated that 4 out of every 100 children have a food allergy. Food Allergies increase risk of asthma and other allergic reaction related conditions yet the link is still unknown.1 Alarmed? Here’s what you can do to prevent and treat Food Allergies in children.
Understand the difference between food allergy and food intolerance: First, as a parent, you must understand what a food allergy is. There is much confusion surrounding the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.
- Food Allergies elicit an immune response. They are caused by factors such as someone’s genetics or the environment they interact with.2 For example, someone with a Milk Allergy consuming milk will activate the immune system to react by producing a rash on the skin.
- Food intolerances cause a gastrointestinal response. A person with lactose intolerance (food intolerance to milk) may have symptoms such as bloating or stomach pain in response to consuming milk.
Eight is enough!
There are eight major allergens, and each have distinct foods that should be avoided. Each also has distinct symptoms that can alert you that a reaction is taking place.
The most severe reaction to some of the eight allergens is anaphylaxis. This may occur when a food allergen (see below) is eaten. Anaphylaxis is best explained as an immune system undertaking a series of reactions to protect itself. Some of the symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, weak pulse, rash, low blood pressure, fainting, nausea and/or vomiting.3 Anaphylaxis must be treated quickly. Keeping an injectable pen of epinephrine (ie. mostly EpiPen in Australia) is very important. Seek emergency medical help if anaphylaxis occurs.
Click this link for instructions on how to use an EpiPen https://www.allergy.org.au/health-professionals/anaphylaxis-resources/how-to-give-epipen.
Here are the eight major allergens…
Allergen one: Peanuts
A Peanut allergy is one of the most dreaded of the Food Allergies. They are one of the most prone to anaphylaxis.
Research underway seems to be demonstrating that introducing foods containing peanuts earlier in infancy may reduce the risk of Peanut allergy.4 However, the full results are not in and so it is especially important that infants at risk, such as those with parents who have peanut allergies, should consult their physician
Common sources of peanuts: peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oil, beer nuts, ground nuts, mixed nuts, flavored nuts, peanut flour, peanut paste, peanut sauce, peanut syrup.
Allergen two: Tree nuts
About one in ten children who have tree nut allergies will out-grow them. In infants, tree nut allergies can be identified by abdominal pain, diarrhea, itching around the mouth, congestion, and/or difficulty breathing.5 While there is less chance of anaphylaxis with tree nuts than peanuts, it is still possible.
Common sources of tree nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, nougat , nut butters, nut oils, nut pastes, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts.
Allergen three: Milk
A Milk Allergy may manifest itself as hives, wheezing, nasal congestion, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, rash, and poor weight gain. Anaphylaxis is rare but still possible.6 Many children will out-grow a Milk Allergy before reaching adulthood.7
Common sources of milk: butter, buttermilk, milk, casein, caseinates, cheese, cream, curd, custard, ghee, half and half, hydrolates, lactoalbumin, lactferrin, nougat, milk chololate, rennet, whey, goat’s milk
Allergen four: Egg
Individuals with an Egg allergy are usually allergic to the proteins found within the white of the egg. They are encouraged to avoid eggs altogether since it is so difficult to remove all egg white from an egg yolk. Common symptoms of egg reaction are the same as symptoms of Milk Allergy.7
Common sources of egg: egg, egg substitute, ovalbumin, albumin, egg powder, ovalglobulin, avidin, egg whites, ovomuoid, bearnaise, globulin, ovovitellin, mayonnaise, livetin, vitellin, hollandaise, lysozyme, eggnog, meringue
Allergen five: Soy
Soy allergic reactions tend to be mild in nature, yet anaphylaxis is a possibility. Common symptoms include itching, rash, abdominal pain, or hives.8 Soy is a common ingredient in infant formula, so if your infant has these symptoms, then it might be worth trying a non-soy formula to see if the symptoms subside. Please consult with your physician before changing infant formulas.
Common sources of soy: soy, soybean, soy products, soy protein, edamame, soybeans, soy nuts, soy sauce, tamari, tempeh, miso, teriyaki sauce, textured vegetable protein
Allergens six and seven: Fish and Shellfish
Common symptoms include hives or skin rash, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting and/or diarrhea, stuffy or runny nose and/or sneezing, headaches, and asthma. Anaphylaxis is less common but still possible (https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/fish-allergy ). Fish and shellfish allergies are not typically outgrown. Fish allergies relate to fish with fins such as salmon. Shellfish allergy refers to crustaceans such as shrimp or crab. If your child has an allergy to fish, that does not guarantee that they will have an allergy to shellfish, and vice versa.7
Common sources of Fish: all fish containing fins, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, Caesar dressing, salad, bouillabaisse, imitation fish
Common sources of Shellfish: barnacle, crab, crawfish , krill, lobster, prawns, shrimp, shrimp, bouillabaisse, crab sauce, seafood flavorings.
Allergen eight: Wheat
Children usually out-grow a Wheat Allergy by adulthood. Symptoms can range from mild (such as an egg allergy) to severe causing anaphylaxis. Wheat is found a vast array of foods as well as hidden sources in processed and prepackaged foods. Reading labels in very important when avoiding wheat.
Common sources of wheat: wheat, bran, bread crumbs, bulgur, cereal, couscous, durum, emmer, einkorn, farina, wheat flour, kamut, semolina, spelt, sprouted wheat, cracked wheat, triticale, whole-wheat berries, breaded foods.
With Food Allergies on the rise, parents must be prepared. As research continues to understand the reasons for the development of allergies, it pays to stay abreast of the information. If a child is allergic to a food, education is the key. Knowing the signs of reactions, what to do when a reaction occurs plus foods to avoid preventing a reaction is paramount.
- Food Allergy Among U.S. Children: Trends in Prevalence and Hospitalizations. CDC. NCHS Data Brief No. 10, October 2008. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db10.htm.
- Sicherer SH, Sampson HA. Food allergy: A review and update on epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, prevention, and management. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2018 Jan;141(1):41-58. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2017.11.003. Epub 2017 Nov 21.
- MAYO Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anaphylaxis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351468.
- Lavery WJ, Assa’ad A. How to prevent food allergy during infancy: what has changed since 2013? Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol.2018 Mar 29. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0000000000000445.
- Tree Nut Allergies. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/tree-nut-allergy.
- Karr, M. Milk Allergies (Milk Protein Allergies). https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/milk#symptoms.
- Common Allergies: FARE Food Allergy Research & Education. https://www.foodallergy.org/common-allergens.
- Soy Allergy. MAYO Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/soy-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20377802.
Food Sources taken from Pediatric Manuel of Clinical Dietetics 2nd Edition by American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Common Allergies by FARE: Food Allergy Research & Education.