Browse By

How to detect that your child suffers from a food allergy?: these are the most common symptoms and types

The Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEPED) defines food allergy as: “a harmful reaction triggered by a food, which occurs because The immune system of allergic patients overreacts to a food that is usually well tolerated. For other people”. This type of allergy is more common in children and usually occurs the first time certain foods are consumed, and manifests itself with skin symptoms that range from hives and swelling to digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea, as well as symptoms respiratory symptoms such as acute rhinitis or difficulty breathing.

To milk, to nuts, to eggs, to fish… One in ten children suffers from this disease in developed countries, according to the Spanish Society of Clinical Immunology, Allergology and Pediatric Asthma. Knowing how to recognize these allergies is crucial given the risk of triggering an anaphylactic reaction.

Therefore, the first thing that worries parents is, how is it triggered? how to activate the alarms? A food allergy is an emergency that usually manifests itself during the first minutes after contact or ingestion of the responsible food. The symptoms are usually sudden onset of itching, hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, which may be accompanied by difficulty breathing, feeling of dizziness and decreased tension. Vomiting or diarrhea is also common.

These reactions occur due to the lack of immunological tolerance to certain substances present in some foods.s, which triggers an acute response mediated by specific antibodies. Sensitization to allergens, that is, the creation of specific immunoglobulin-E antibodies against the foods to which one is allergic, usually occurs through the skin or the digestive tract, recalls the Spanish Association of Pediatrics.

Diagnosis and treatment

With suspicions on the table, The diagnosis of a food allergy is made through examination of medical history, skin tests, blood tests, and, in some cases, oral exposure testing to the food.. The usual treatment is strict restriction of the intake of the food in question in the child’s diet.

«In case of exposure to the allergen, The treatment to follow will depend on whether it is necessary to stop a severe reaction with epinephrine or if the administration of antihistamines will be sufficient. to contain mild and potentially non-lethal symptoms. Differentiating both situations is crucial,” the doctors recall.

Children who are at risk of suffering an anaphylactic reaction (due to asthma, allergies to peanuts or tree nuts, milk or eggs, or other food allergies with a previous history of anaphylaxis) should always have adrenaline auto-injectors on hand.

Allergy versus intolerance

Another common question is what we call the reaction. Intolerance? Allergy? Luis Echeverría, coordinator of the Seicap Food Allergies Group, gives the key in a report published that month in Consumer Magazine, from the Eroski group. «This is not a trivial classification: the reactions are different and so are the severity and the measures that must be adopted. An intolerance is not an allergy. In an allergy, the reaction is usually rapid: within minutes of the child putting the food in his mouth, symptoms appear. On the other hand, in intolerance the reactions remain latent for longer. They are slower and generally less severe. We could say that, in an intolerance, a transgression – that is, eating the wrong thing – does not compromise life (except in exceptional cases); “In a serious allergy, it can put it at risk,” he details.

Most common foods

The foods that cause the most allergies are milk, eggs, nuts, fish or shellfish, as well as others such as wheat, soy and some seeds such as sesame. Symptoms usually appear from an early age after exposure to the allergen and, in some cases such as milk and eggs, it is common for them to disappear with age. The pediatric allergist must monitor the progression of the development of tolerance to the food in the child. Other cases, such as nut allergies, are usually permanent. These are, according to Consumer, the most common types:

Milk. Milk allergy is the most common food allergy in babies and according to information from the AEPED, it appears regularly during the first year of life, when breast milk is replaced by an adapted cow’s milk formula. Those allergic to cow’s milk are usually also allergic to those of other mammals, such as goat’s and sheep’s, because these milks share many proteins; However, they can tolerate others, such as donkey or camel. But it is not necessary to remove or not introduce beef to these children, since most of them tolerate it perfectly.

Egg. Those who are allergic are usually also allergic to those of other birds, but not in all cases. Egg allergy is the most common allergy in young children, and usually appears the first time the egg white is eaten, which produces more allergies than the yolk, due to the higher amount of protein it contains.

Seafood. Mollusks, cephalopods and crustaceans do not share many of their proteins. Therefore, they must be studied separately. Just because someone is allergic to shellfish does not necessarily mean that they also have an allergy to fish or vice versa, although there are cases in which both are present.

Fish. It is the third most common allergy in young children, and usually appears during the first or second year of life. You can have an allergy to a single type of fish, to a family of fish, or to all fish in general. Unlike a milk or egg allergy, a fish allergy can last for decades or a lifetime. Children who are allergic to fish tend to react to many of them. This is because parvalbumin is the protein most commonly involved in this allergy, and it is a protein present in most fish.

Vegetables and nuts. We can find cross reactivities between different families. Much of the cross-reactivity between foods in the plant kingdom is due to common proteins. Thus, for example, it is common for those who are allergic to peanuts to also be allergic to legumes (lentils, peas, chickpeas and white beans). In the case of nuts, the allergy usually appears after 3 or 4 years of age. Allergies to peanuts, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts stand out -because they are common-, mainly because they are the most consumed.