Food Allergy Facts: Essential Information for Parents

Food Allergy Facts

As a parent, it’s important to be well-informed about food allergies, their causes, symptoms, and management. Understanding these aspects can help you provide the necessary care and support to your child. In this blog post, we will discuss food allergies in detail and provide you with key insights. Read on to learn more.

Food Allergies: Causes and Reactions

A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system mistakes specific proteins in food as harmful and produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This immune response triggers the release of histamine and other inflammatory substances, leading to allergic reactions. While some individuals may have mild reactions, others experience severe, potentially life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.

Children are more prone to developing food allergies, with most cases emerging during their early years. While some children may outgrow their allergies, many continue to experience allergic reactions throughout their lives. It’s crucial for parents to remain vigilant and proactive in managing their child’s food allergies.

Common Food Allergens

Certain foods are more likely to cause allergic reactions in children. The top nine allergenic foods include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, pecans)
  • Wheat
  • Seeds
  • Fish (allergy to one type of fish does not imply allergy to all types)
  • Shellfish (clams, shrimp, crabs, etc.)

Additionally, food allergies can be triggered by various other sources, including herbal remedies, spices, and unexpected food items.

Diagnosing Food Allergies

Diagnosing food allergies involves considering observable symptoms, and patient history, and conducting specific tests. Medical professionals may recommend the following tests:

Skin Prick Test: This test involves pricking the child’s forearm or back with an allergen extract to observe the development of raised spots called wheals.

Blood Test: Blood tests check for food-specific IgE antibodies, providing insights into the presence of an allergic response.

Elimination Diet: Under medical supervision, an elimination diet involves consuming specific foods and monitoring reactions after each meal.

Food Challenge: This test gradually exposes the patient to increasing amounts of a suspected food allergen while closely monitoring symptoms. Given the potential for severe reactions, food challenges are conducted in allergist clinics or hospitals with immediate access to medical care.

Managing Food Allergies: What Parents Should Do

When your child has a food allergy, taking necessary precautions is essential to ensure their safety and well-being. Here are some crucial steps you can take:

Familiarize Yourself with Allergic Reaction Symptoms: Food allergies can manifest through skin, respiratory, digestive, and cardiovascular symptoms. The severity and presentation of symptoms can vary from person to person and even from one occurrence to another. Recognizing and promptly responding to allergic reactions is vital. Common symptoms include hives, skin rashes, vomiting, swelling, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Recognizing Anaphylaxis: In severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur, posing life-threatening risks. Anaphylaxis symptoms may initially resemble milder allergic responses but can rapidly worsen. Being aware of symptoms such as chest tightness, trouble breathing, fainting, and confusion is crucial. If your child experiences these symptoms, administer an EpiPen (Adrenaline) and seek immediate medical attention.

Consult a Doctor: If your child experiences an allergic reaction after consuming a specific food, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to determine the cause. Even if past reactions were mild, future reactions can be more severe. In some cases, even a small amount of allergenic food can lead to immediate and severe symptoms.

Treatment and Management: While there is no cure for food allergies, developing a comprehensive treatment plan with your doctor is essential. Additionally, parents can follow these management steps:

Carry an EpiPen: Always have an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) on hand, as it is the primary emergency treatment for anaphylaxis. Keep at least two auto-injectors, and consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace to communicate your child’s allergies when necessary.

Avoid Food Allergens: The best way to prevent severe allergic reactions is to avoid consuming foods that trigger allergies. Eliminate these allergenic foods from your child’s diet, and monitor improvements in their condition. In some cases, lifelong avoidance may be necessary.

Safety Tips for Dining Out: It may be challenging to avoid allergenic foods completely. However, you can take precautions such as choosing simpler dishes, ensuring restaurant staff understand your child’s allergy, and avoiding family-style or buffet dining. Be cautious of cross-contamination risks, and consider providing allergy information cards.

Common Questions About Food Allergies

Is Food Intolerance the Same as Food Allergy?

Food allergy and food intolerance are distinct. While food allergies involve an immune reaction, food intolerance occurs when the body has difficulty digesting certain substances. Symptoms of food intolerance, such as bloating or headache, are rarely life-threatening. Many individuals outgrow milk, wheat, or soy intolerance, and around two-thirds of children outgrow egg allergies by age 5.

Can Adults Develop Food Allergies?

While food allergies typically develop during childhood, they can also emerge in adulthood without an apparent cause. Regardless of age, it’s crucial to remain cautious and seek medical advice if you suspect a food allergy.


Parents can provide their children with the necessary support and care by understanding the causes, symptoms, and management of food allergies. Awareness of allergenic foods, recognizing allergic reaction symptoms, and having an emergency plan can significantly contribute to your child’s safety and well-being. Remember, always consult with a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and guidance on managing food allergies.