With over 15 million Americans suffering from food allergies, kids make up their fair share of those numbers. Researchers estimate about one in every 13 children are affected by food allergies. Many of us have probably heard about food allergies by now, but what exactly are they? How might they be affecting our families?
Take a look at this quick and comprehensive guide, which covers all the basics.
The Difference Between an Allergy and an Intolerance
Many people do not realize this, but not all digestive discomforts are the result of a food allergy. Food intolerance can also cause a person to experience uncomfortable symptoms, and unlike allergies, these pains are not life threatening. A food intolerance is usually caused by:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- The absence of an enzyme needed to properly digest certain foods
- Sensitivity to additives
- Celiac disease
If you have an intolerance to certain foods, you may still be able to eat small amounts of it, assuming you are willing to live with the results.
A food allergy is much more serious and should never be taken lightly. The physical symptoms of a food allergy can range from irritating to life threatening anaphylaxis. If you notice your child reacting after eating certain types of food, it is always best to check in with a doctor to avoid a potential harm.
How and Why Food Allergies May Be Affecting Your Child
It is still unclear exactly why, but food allergies among children are on the rise with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention witnessing a 50% increase from 1997 to 2011. Allergies to foods can begin at any age and do not discriminate between sex, ethnicity or other factors. Anyone can get hit with a food allergy, though certain correlations have been noticed. Children with food allergies often have a parent with some type of allergic disease, such as one that affects the skin, the sinuses or the digestive system. Children with food allergies are believed to be about twice as likely to suffer from asthma, and the symptoms which arise may be a trigger for other allergic conditions and diseases, such as atopic dermatitis.
Parents can usually recognize an allergic reaction to food in their child with a few common symptoms, such as hives or itching, swelling on parts of the body like the lips and tongue, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. The most severe symptom food allergic people experience is anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can be potentially life-threatening. Anaphylaxis occurs when a tightening of the airways restricts one’s ability to breathe, and is often paired with a drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse and even loss in consciousness. If your child should ever display any of these symptoms, make sure to get them to an emergency room for immediate medical attention.
While food allergies can sound like an overwhelming aspect to stay on top of, you might be relieved to know that there are certain foods more commonly associated with allergens. Approximately 90% of all reactions can be pinned down to only eight foods – eggs, peanuts, milk, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
As it stands today, there is no cure for food allergies, which makes a proactive approach absolutely essential in maintaining the healthiest child possible. Keeping foods your little one is allergic to out of reach is the only way to prevent harm when it comes to food allergies. Certain food allergies have been known to decrease with age, mainly milk, eggs and soy, and many children struggling with these particular foods find themselves allergy-free by the time they are 16. The remaining common culprits tend to be lifelong, so it is best to develop good habits early.