• Feeding


How can I tell if my child has a food allergy?

An allergy to a certain food occurs when the body reacts against harmless proteins found in that food. This reaction usually occurs shortly after the food is eaten. These reactions can range from mild to severe.

Because there are many symptoms and illnesses that can be confused with food allergies, it is important for parents to know the differences.

Symptoms of a food allergy:

When the body's immune system overreacts to certain foods, the following symptoms occur:

  • Skin problems
  • Urticaria (reddish spots on the skin that resemble mosquito bites)
  • Eczema
  • Swelling
  • Respiration problems
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Throat tightness
  • Stomach symptoms (Nausea – Vomiting- Diarrhea)
  • Circulatory symptoms
  • Skin paleness
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Loss of consciousness

If multiple parts of the body are affected, the reaction can be severe or even life-threatening. This type of allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.

What foods can cause allergies?

Any food can trigger an allergic reaction, but the following foods tend to trigger the most allergies:

  • Cow milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanut
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Tree almonds (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, and cashews)
  • Fish (such as tuna, salmon, cod)
  • Seafood (such as shrimp, lobster)
  • Nuts and shellfish are the most common cause of severe reactions. Allergies can also occur due to other foods such as meats, fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds such as sesame.
  • Fruits (strawberry, kiwi, melon...)

Cow's MILK is a potentially allergenic food, it should NOT be introduced before 12 months of age. Dairy products could be given in small amounts starting from 6 to 9 months of age, without displacing breast milk or infant formula.

Fortunately, these types of allergies are usually outgrown during early childhood. It is estimated that 80% to 90% of allergies to eggs, milk, wheat, and soy are gone by the time a child is five years old. Some allergies are more persistent. For example, one in five young children will outgrow an allergy to peanuts, while very few will outgrow tree nuts and shellfish. Your pediatrician or allergist will do follow-up tests for your child's allergies to see if he's outgrown them.

​Studies to date have NOT shown that delaying the introduction of potentially allergenic foods during complementary feeding prevents allergy to them and earlier, on the contrary, could increase the risk of suffering from it.

When It's Not a Food Allergy

Foods can be responsible for many illnesses that are sometimes confused with a food allergy. 

The following are not food allergies:

  • Food poisoning: Can cause diarrhea or vomiting, but is usually due to bacteria from spoiled or undercooked food.
  • Drug effects: Certain ingredients, such as caffeine in soft drinks or candy, can cause shakiness or restlessness in your child.
  • Skin irritation: This is usually due to acids found in foods such as orange juice or tomato products.
  • Diarrhea: This can occur in young children who consume too much sugar, such as that found in fruit juices.

Some food-related illnesses are known as food intolerances or sensitivities, rather than an allergy itself, because the immune system is not the cause of the problem. Lactose intolerance is an example of a food intolerance that is often mistaken for a food allergy. Lactose intolerance occurs when a person has difficulty digesting the sugar in milk, called lactose, causing stomach pain, bloating, and loose stools.

Sometimes reactions to chemicals added to foods such as dyes or preservatives are mistaken for food allergies. However, while some people can be very sensitive to certain food additives, they are rarely allergic to them.

Ensure your child's well-being with Little Lunches! Easily track food allergies and stay informed about safe meal options. Download the app today to keep your child healthy and happy!

Written By: Dr. Diana Jimenez, pediatrician specialized in child nutrition, lactation, and child development.

2 years ago