How Common Are Food Allergies in Children?
The journal Pediatrics published a study revealing that food allergies in children are more common than previously thought. The study, which included a survey of about 38,000 children, showed that 8 percent of children in the U.S. who are under the age of 18 are allergic to at least one type of food.
The three most common types of food allergies in children are peanuts, dairy, and shellfish. In fact, 2 percent of children in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts. Other types of foods that can cause allergies in children include strawberries, tree nuts, egg, wheat, finfish, and soy.
While many children only experience mild food allergy symptoms, a considerable number of children experience severe reactions such as anaphylaxis and wheezing. Studies show that about 40 percent of children with food allergies experience severe symptoms. Allergies can be life-threatening, which is why it is so important to teach children how to manage food allergies. Even if symptoms are not life-threatening, children can experience a great deal of discomfort if food allergies are not properly addressed.
Food Allergy or Food Intolerance?
If your child shows a reaction to certain types of foods, it is important to seek the advice of your family doctor or an allergy specialist in order to determine whether your child has a food allergy or a food intolerance. A food allergy involves an immune response while food intolerances do not.
For example, a child with a milk allergy will have an immune response to the protein found in milk. A child who is lactose intolerant is unable to properly digest the lactose found in milk. A negative immune response due to a food allergy can cause life-threatening symptoms. Food intolerances tend to produce more mild symptoms that involve improper digestion. While food intolerances produce less severe symptoms, they symptoms can nevertheless be very uncomfortable for children or adults.
Outgrowing Food Allergies
The majority of children with food allergies will outgrow these allergies by the age of 7. In some cases, food allergies subside much earlier. This is actually a benefit of developing food allergies at a young age; Food allergies that begin early in life are much more likely to go away than allergies that are developed later in life. There are, however, some types of allergies that tend to stick with children even as they grow beyond the age of 7. For example, allergies to tree nuts and peanuts tend to stick with people throughout their life, whereas allergies to foods such as eggs, soy, milk, and wheat tend to end once children reach the age of 7 or older.
It is important to keep in mind that even if your child does not exhibit allergic reactions at a young age, this does not mean that they will not develop allergies later in childhood or in adulthood. That being said, there are certain types of foods that more commonly trigger allergies at a young age. These include milk, peanuts, and eggs. Allergies to seafood and tree nuts more commonly begin in teenagers or adults.
Allergies to Food Additives
In many cases, allergies to food additives are mistaken for food allergies. There are many types of substances that are added to foods that can cause a negative reaction. A few types of additives used for preserving, coloring, or flavoring foods that may cause an adverse reaction include tartrazine, sulfites, nitrates, monosodium glutamate (MSG), butylated hydroxyl toluene (BHT), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and potassium bromate.
Your doctor or an allergy specialist will be able to help in determining what is causing allergies in your child. By understanding the precise cause of food allergies, a proper management plan can be followed.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.