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Food Allergies

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 17 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Food Allergies Allergies Allergic

Food allergies in children are common, but most kids outgrow them before they become school aged. While this is great news for the future, it may be cold comfort to the young child who has to deal with an itchy rash, red skin or breathing difficulties at the very thought of the allergy. Unfortunately, food allergies can cause more than mere discomfort, with severe allergies sometimes leading to life threatening symptoms. If you suspect that your child suffers from a food allergy, don't delay in having it diagnosed to help ensure your child's comfort and safety.

What are Food Allergies?

When someone is allergic to a food, it means that their body routinely mistakes that type of food as harmful. In order to fight this perceived threat, the body produces antibodies and releases histamines. It is this release of histamine that generally causes the symptoms of the allergy.

What are the Common Symptoms of Food Allergies?

Symptoms of a food allergy often come up quickly after ingesting the food. Common symptoms include:
  • Tingling, itching or burning of the mouth, lips and/or tongue.
  • Swelling of the mouth, tongue and/or throat/airway.
  • Runny nose and/or sneezing.
  • Skin rash, swelling and/or redness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea and/or wind.
  • Anaphylactic shock - severe, whole body shock that often includes breathing difficulty.

What Types of Foods Cause Allergies?

While technically any food may cause an allergy, there are certain types of foods that are frequently the culprit. Common triggers include:
  • Nuts, particularly peanuts.
  • Shellfish, particularly prawns.
  • Fish.
  • Milk and related dairy products.
  • Wheat and related wheat products.
  • Eggs.
  • Packaged foods containing synthetic colours or flavourings.

How is a Food Allergy Diagnosed?

GPs are well versed in diagnosing food allergies, and there are several diagnostic tests available today. Common methods include:
  • Patient history - the GP will likely ask about the foods eaten, the symptoms of the reaction, the pattern of reactions after ingesting this food, common treatments for the symptoms and the frequency of these events.
  • Scratch test - sometimes called patch testing, the GP will gently scratch a small area of skin and then lay the food in question next to it. If redness or swelling occurs, an allergy is diagnosed.
  • Blood tests - the GP sends a blood sample to be tested for antibodies specific to certain foods. The presence of these antibodies means that the body is treating this food as harmful, and an allergy is diagnosed.

How is a Food Allergy Treated?

The only way to absolutely treat a food allergy is to avoid the foods that cause a reaction. The GP may also write a prescription for an anti-histamine to be used in case of allergic reactions, or in more severe cases may prescribe an EpiPen which contains adrenaline to treat anaphylactic shock.

Food allergies are common among children, but this does not make them any more comfortable. Diagnosing a food allergy will ensure that your child understands what is happening during an allergic reaction, can take measures to avoid the trigger foods and can deal with the allergy symptoms during a reaction. Contact your GP today if you suspect that your child has a food allergy.

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