Allergies in children

  • By
    Jo Lewin - Nutritional therapist

Do you suspect or know your child is suffering from a food allergy? Read our expert advice from nutritionist Jo Lewin and Allergy UK.

Child eating fruit
Allergies are different from intolerances. An allergy is an overactive immune response to things that don’t trouble most people. An allergy elicits an acute, almost immediate reaction; the worst of which is anaphylaxis. Allergies can also involve symptoms such as rashes, hives, eye and nasal irritation, asthma attacks or inflammation. Common allergens include pollen, animal hair, dust mites and peanuts, though there’s a host of other possibilities. Depending on the severity of the allergy, the problem can range from being a nuisance to having a severe impact on daily life. If you suspect your child has an allergy, you should consult with your doctor before making any dietary adjustments.  

NutsAllergies commonly run in families and these are referred to as ‘atopic’. Such families have higher than average incidences of asthma, eczema, hayfever and food allergies.

Visiting your GP

Allergy UK has the following advice when it comes to helping your doctor; try to think when your child had symptoms, and note the date, time of year and how long they lasted. Think back about your child’s diet previously, and what activities they were doing, and try to record all these details so the doctor can get a clear picture of what has happened. Some doctors may give you a symptom diary to fill in, where you can record all this information as these clues can lead to a quicker diagnosis. For more information read Diagnosis of Allergy in Children by Allergy UK.

Nut allergy:

An allergy, such as a peanut allergy can come from nowhere. If your child is living with a nut allergy our spotlight on a nut-free diet gives an overview of nut allergies, including foods to avoid, how to read labels and suggested recipes to eat on a nut-free diet. If you suspect your child has a nut allergy, you should consult with your doctor immediately.

TomatoesAllergies and food groups:

Foods can be grouped into problem families that might not seem immediately obvious. For instance, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers are all members of the deadly nightshade family. This means that an allergy to one food in a family can cross react to other related foods, or to foods that have similar compounds in them. This can make diagnosis of what’s causing the problem difficult unless symptoms are very obvious.

Possible strategies:

  • Antihistamines: These are useful when the reaction is mild and exposure can’t be avoided. They are mostly used for problems such as hayfever or for localised reactions to stings.
  • Total avoidance of the allergen: This is particularly the case for foods that provoke a rapid reaction such as peanuts. The allergy is usually a lifetime problem.
  • Epinephrine Injections (EpiPen): These are used for severe reactions and can be life saving for inadvertent exposure to serious allergens such as insect stings or peanuts hidden in food.
  • Reduction of allergenic load: In a number of instances (such as hayfever, asthma and eczema) you can try reducing the overall ‘load’ placed on the immune system.

This article has been accredited by Allergy UK.

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