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Food Allergies in Children

When people with apparent food allergies are tested, only about one out of four turns out to have symptoms from the food they suspected.  Food allergies are not as common as many people think, but they do exist.

Food allergies are most common in infants and young children.  This is especially true in the first year of life before the gut and immune system have become fully developed.  Fortunately, many of these early allergies are outgrown as the child gets older.  Food allergies beginning at an older age are more likely to last a lifetime.

About 90% of all food allergies in children are due to five foods:  eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, fish and soybeans.  Most of these allergies are relatively mild, but sometimes life-threatening reactions occur.  Serious reactions are most common with shellfish and peanuts.

The main symptoms of food allergies include swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, itching of the throat, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.  Most allergists do not believe headaches are a typical symptom of food allergies, however.

For the serious reactions, the food needs to be avoided indefinitely.  For minor reactions, especially in young children, the foods can be tried again every 3-6 months to see if the reaction has faded.  If there is no reaction, the food does not need to be avoided.  Discuss this with your doctor before attempting a trial of the food.

Routine allergy treatments, such as shots and antihistamines, are seldom helpful in the care of most food allergies.  Identifying and avoiding the allergenic food is the key.

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