Recent estimates say up to eight percent (8%) of children in the United States have food allergies. The most common allergies are to cow’s milk, peanuts, soy, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish. These foods comprise approximately 90 percent of all food allergies. Milk and soy allergies are more common in infants and young children. In 2016, an American Academy of Pediatrics study found that sesame was the ninth most common food allergy among children in the U.S., as reported by parents. Although most children will outgrow their allergies, allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish can be lifelong.
Children are more likely to develop allergies to food if they have a family member with an allergy, food or otherwise. Additionally, babies are considered to have a higher risk of developing food allergies if they have an egg allergy or moderate to severe eczema.
While food allergies can’t be prevented, there are potentially ways to lower the risk of children developing them. Advice on this ranges from breastfeeding for the first four to six months to introducing babies to peanuts or eggs early. The child’s healthcare provider should be consulted before doing so.
It is important to understand the differences between a food allergy and a food sensitivity or intolerance. While food intolerance does not affect the immune system, some symptoms of food intolerance, such as diarrhea, may be the same symptoms of food allergies. A child who becomes bloated or feels gassy due to a milk product may have lactose intolerance rather than an allergy to milk, which could cause more severe symptoms such as itching, swelling, vomiting, or difficulty breathing. Food allergies are often misdiagnosed, and sensitized reactions to skin-prick tests and blood tests are not enough to indicate one. If a parent suspects their child has a food allergy, they should log a history of the child’s symptoms to that food. The child should then participate in a food challenge, given by an allergist.
Your Little Rock Allergist, Dr. Meredith Dilley, at Arkansas Otolaryngology Center will help you determine what food allergies and/or food sensitivities your child may have. Some allergies may be easily treated while other may require a long-term approach, however, Dr. Dilley will guide you through every step of the way. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Dilley at the Allergy Center at Arkansas Otolaryngology Center to learn more.