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Alergias alimentarias en bebés y niños

Food allergies in infants and children

Food allergies cause your child to have different problems when he or she eats certain nutrients. This can cause all kinds of unpleasant discomforts, such as abdominal cramps or skin irritation. How do you know if your child has a food allergy and what you can do about it?

First of all, let’s define…What are food allergies?

A food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system when eating or drinking certain foods. The body thinks the substance is harmful and the immune system attacks it, incorrectly. This can cause all kinds of complaints, such as vomiting, diarrhea, rash, or, in an extreme case, shock. About four to eight percent of children up to three have food allergies. As young children who still can’t easily express where their discomfort comes from, it’s very important that parents try to stay tuned, and add new allergenic foods to the diet gradually.

Allergies in the most common babies are usually:

– Cow’s milk allergy

– Hen’s egg allergy

– Peanut and/or nut allergy

– Allergy to fish and/or seafood

– Allergy to certain fruits and vegetables

Food allergy versus food intolerances

If your child doesn’t tolerate certain types of food, it can have several causes. Doctors distinguish between food allergy, food intolerance, and food aversion.

Food Allergy

If your child has an allergy to food, it means that a protein in his or her diet is causing this problem. These could be proteins in peanuts, cow’s milk, or chicken eggs, for example. The body mistakes the protein for a harmful substance and attacks, the immune system produces antibodies against the protein.

In infants, a food allergy almost always begins with a reaction to cow’s milk protein. They get it through the bottle or breastfeeding (cow’s milk proteins that the mother takes and are transmitted through breastfeeding. As soon as babies begin to eat solid foods, they can react with an allergy to other nutrients. These complaints may be mild, but there are also cases where these allergies can be severe.

Symptoms of a food allergy may include:

– Skin complaints: itching everywhere immediately after taking food, hives.

– Gastrointestinal complaints: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

– Complaints in the respiratory system: shortness of breath, shortness of breath, wheezing, congestion, or nasal discharge.

– In exceptional cases, you may experience a drop in blood pressure: an anaphylactic shock. A crumb or even touching food can already cause a severe allergic reaction. The reaction can be very intense, especially with an allergy to peanuts or walnuts.

Food intolerance

Food intolerance can cause the same complaints as an allergy, but it has a different cause. With food intolerance, your child’s body can’t break down food properly, for example, because the body lacks the enzyme needed.

Complaints of food intolerance are often milder than an allergic reaction and are limited to complaints from the skin and gastrointestinal tract. Although this can also mean that the child is restless and uncomfortable or that the development of his growth is affected.

In lactose intolerance, the body does not produce enough natural lactase enzyme to break down the enzyme lactose (milk sugar). Lactose intolerance is different from cow’s milk allergy: a child is allergic to milk protein.

Gluten intolerance works differently. The body sees gluten as a harmful substance and attacks it. In addition, not only gluten but also intestinal cells themselves are damaged. Gluten intolerance is therefore an autoimmune disease. Here’s a little more about gluten intolerance and what a celiac child’s diet should look like.

Food aversion

With food aversion, your child reacts violently to certain foods. For example, you may vomit when you eat certain things, such as Brussels sprouts or escarole. This reaction is not because you are allergic or intolerant but often have a psychological cause. Once you give him the same food in an unrecognizable way, he’ll stop bothering him.

Diagnosis and treatment of food allergies

Do you think your child suffers from food hypersensitivity? In that case, it is important that you consult with your doctor, after examining it will tell you if a referral to a specialist doctor is necessary to make the correct diagnosis. Children are usually referred to as a pediatrician with specialty or expertise in allergology.

There are several tests to determine food intolerance or food allergies, such as skin tests or a blood test or a double-blind challenge test. In the last test mentioned, you must go to the hospital twice with an interval of two weeks. On a test day, the child eats food with the allergen to which he has reacted, the other day of testing, he or she tests a food without allergen.

Sometimes it’s not possible to diagnose food status at a very young age, because of the complexity of some tests, so in that case, you’ll first receive dietary advice (for example, to avoid milk sugar as much as possible) and you may need to return when it’s a little older.

A positive diagnosis of a food allergy or intolerance

If your doctor establishes a food allergy or intolerance or if there is a strong suspicion, following the doctor’s advice, you should avoid ingesting the food in question. This usually means your child simply can no longer eat or drink one or more certain foods and their substitutes.

Sometimes it has far-reaching consequences. If you’re breastfeeding and if your child is allergic to cow’s milk, you may (temporarily) not eat or drink cow’s milk products. With a peanut allergy, the presence of peanut protein in the air (for example, through a bowl of peanuts on the table) can cause reactions in the child.

Practical tips for a food allergy

– Needless to say, but try to avoid by all means that it consumes the food in question.

– Always read all food labels carefully before preparing a meal.

– Put a list somewhere visible in your kitchen with foods and products your child shouldn’t eat.

– Inform family, friends, and school. Tell them what you are allergic to and what to do if you have accidentally ingested that food.

– Always have your child bring something that indicates what food he or she is allergic to or what intolerance he or she has. There are special bracelets and chains that indicate you have an allergy.

– Ask your dietitian how you can make sure he or she gets all the important and necessary nutrients.

Is it an inherited allergy?

Are there food intolerances or allergies in the family? So your child has a higher chance of getting this too. A food allergy does not inherit in itself, but its predisposition.

The more family members suffer, the greater the chances. Fortunately, not all children with an atopic predisposition suffer from food allergy.

It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor to find out what’s good to do for you, and if your doctor doesn’t advise it, it’s not necessary to avoid food as a precautionary measure or administer it at a later age. Some studies indicate that early introduction reduces the risk of later allergies.

All the information we give you in this article is indicative as each child and each family is different and unique.

Carolina González Ramos

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