Before I had my eldest son I didn’t really know much about food allergies. I knew some people had them but didn’t know anyone personally with one. Growing up food allergies didn’t really exist, as a child if we told our parents something made us feel sick we were just “fussy” or “didn’t like it”.
When my first son was born he was so sick but none of the doctors we saw were able to tell us why. “It’s normal”, were the words that were uttered to me time and time again or “first time mom’s always think something’s wrong when there’s not”. It was only when I broke down in the health visitors’ office that she decided to refer me to a local dietician. Finally I’d found someone to listen to me and once he explained that my son had a milk allergy and made suggestions to overcome this, all his symptoms started to make sense.
After speaking to numerous doctors and dieticians, reading large amount of information on the internet, making constant lists and cutting out and reintroducing foods over and over again and, of course, watching my son firsthand as he had bad reactions and trying to figure out why, I finally feel like I have some knowledge about the subject which I’d like to pass on to other moms’ who may be in the same situation.
Your immune system identifies and destroys germs such as viruses or bacteria that would make you sick. An allergy occurs when your immune system treats things that wouldn’t usually be harmful such as pollen, dust mites or certain foods as a threat thus attacking them.
The two are often confused because the symptoms are similar however food intolerance is different to an allergy as it doesn’t involve the immune system. Instead it’s usually caused by an inability to digest certain substances and although unpleasant is very rarely dangerous like an allergy can be.
One study found that nearly eight percent of children under eighteen have a food allergy. Another showed an eighteen percent rise in food allergies in kids over a single decade. Doctors aren’t sure why this has occurred, although lots of theories have been put forward such as the increase in pollution in the environment, eating peanuts and other allergy related foods in pregnancy and our obsession with hygiene. Allergies are less common in adults but overall they affect nearly fifteen million people in the US alone.
That doesn’t mean that if you have a child with a severe allergy your next child will have one but rather that children are more predisposed if there are others in the family who have an allergy. A lot of allergies such as Hay Fever, Asthma, Eczema and food allergies are all linked so if any of these run in your family then there’s a higher chance your child will have an allergy. My eldest has a milk allergy which I believe he probably inherited from me as I can’t eat certain dairy products either. Hay Fever also runs in my family and my partner’s. My partner and I worried that our second son would have it and for nine months consoled ourselves with the mantra “we’ll know the signs immediately and can deal with it”. Luckily he doesn’t show any signs of being intolerant to anything and a few other parents who have food allergy children have said the same thing so although it may be hereditary it doesn’t necessarily affect every child in the family.
A food allergy can affect different parts of the body at the same time. Some common symptoms include:
- An itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Itchy rash such as hives or Eczema
- Facial swelling such as around the eyes, lips, tongue and roof of the mouth
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
It’s worth researching and noting these different symptoms so you know what to look out for in your child as they could display several all at once or over a period of time. Clearly some are more serious than others and recognizing these mean you can act quickly and seek medical attention immediately.
Of course any food can cause an allergic reaction but there are eight most common ones that account for ninety percent of all reactions in kids. These are milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish and tree nuts such as walnuts or cashews. Some doctors recommend cutting these out of your diet when pregnant although there isn’t conclusive proof that this works. However it is helpful to know the main ones in order to be able to start cutting things out of your child’s diet should you suspect they have an allergy.