Food allergies are an altered reaction of our immune system, which mistakenly responds to a non-harmful protein in aspecific food item.
In an earlier post we explained the causes and symptoms of food allergies, and also the differences between an allergy and an intolerance. Therefore, today we will focus on how these allergies affect children and how we can detect them.
These immune system disorders are very common in childhood. According to the Spanish Society of Clinical Immunology, Allergology and Paediatric Asthma (SEICAAP), between 4 and 8% of the child population in Spain suffers from some type offoodallergy. These usually begin at around the age of two and disappear as the child grows up.
Foods most likely to cause allergies
Any food can cause an allergy, but eggs and milk are the most common causes in children. In addition, they are the ones that cause the most problems given their significant role in our nutritional habits.
It is estimated that in Spain one or two children out of every hundred develops a milk allergy during the first year of life. In fact, this often occurs during the breastfeeding period. However, approximately 85% of those affected will have grown out of it once they reach the age of 6.
This type of allergy usually has a hereditary component and manifests itself in both cutaneous and digestive symptoms. Hives, swelling, abdominal pain, vomiting or difficulty swallowing are some of its effects.
This type of allergy is the most frequent once children are over the age of one. It occurs in people who have developed Immunoglobulin E (IgE). The symptoms are in many cases similar to the previous ones, mainly affecting the skin and the gastrointestinal tract. They usually appear almost immediately, usually within an hour of eating the food.
As with a milk allergy, in 65% of cases it disappears by the time the children reach the age of 6.
Other foods such as nuts, fish, shellfish or some fruit and vegetables also cause allergies, but these allergies are more common in adults.
How to detect allergies in children
If the child shows any of the aforementioned symptoms, the main thing is to consult a paediatrician to review the child's medical history, and if necessary, refer them to an allergist.
There are several tests that the allergist can perform to diagnose an allergy. In the case of food allergies, a skin test should be performed first and, if the result is positive, an oral test should be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
The skin test is the most common test used for allergies and also the most suitable for babies and young children. In the oral test, certain foods suspected of causing an allergy are eliminated from the affected person's diet. The different food types are then gradually reintroduced to see which of them is the causing the allergy.
The only possible treatment is the elimination from their diet of the food causing the allergy. While this may seem simple, you have to be careful about allergens being hidden in some foods.
As we have said previously, eggs and milk are very common elements of our diet, so removing them can be complicated. However, there are other options. There are many types of milk, such as soy, oatmeal and rice milk. As for eggs, substitutes have been created for vegan cooking and these can be purchased at herbalists and health food stores.