peanut butter

Like many moms, you may fear that your child is allergic to something and you just don’t know it yet. Unfortunately, it is most often the case that you won’t find out until they try to eat whatever food it is that they are allergic to. Allergic reactions to food can vary from just an itchy mouth to a full on anaphylactic reaction. Samantha Brody ND, LAc, a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist, suggests that the best way to find out what allergies your child might have before ingesting the foods they are allergic too is by having them do a skin test or an immunoglobulin E (IgE) blood test.

The Mayo Clinic has recognized eight of the most common foods that cause allergic reactions; milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. This group makes up about 90% of food allergies. Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and registered dietitian, Vandana Sheth, RD, CDE, points out that the prevalence of peanut allergy among children appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008. While some children do actually grow out of allergic reactions to certain foods, that’s usually the case when the food gives them just a slight reaction. The more serious allergies are unfortunately with them for life. It’s very important not to reintroduce your child to foods they’ve had an allergic reaction to without consulting their pediatrician.

If you find that your child does have a moderate to severe allergy to certain foods, you need to spend time teaching them how to identify which foods might give them those negative effects and how to say no when they are offered to them. If the allergic reaction has the potential to be fatal, be sure they wear a medic alert bracelet. And of course, with any allergy, be sure you notify your child’s school upon enrollment.

According to Dr. Samantha, food intolerances are less recognized by allergists, even though they actually make up a larger group than allergies, and can cause health problems from behavioral and mood issues to rashes or chronic ear infections. Some of the more common symptoms caused by ingesting food you’re intolerant of include diarrhea, bloating and moderate to severe stomach cramps.

“Food intolerance does not involve the immune system and is usually not life-threatening,” Sheth said. “For example, lactose intolerance might cause symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating and stomach cramps. However, a food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a specific food. This causes the release of IgE antibodies, histamine and mediators which cause reactions such as hives, breathing difficulties, etcetera.”

The list of the most common foods that people are intolerant to is very similar to the foods people are allergic to. The most common are dairy, wheat, soy, gluten and artificial colorings, flavorings or sweeteners. Dr. Samantha suggests that if your child has a negative reaction to a food due to an intolerance issue, the best thing to do is remove that food from their diet completely, then reintroduce it later. This process is best if done under the supervision of a doctor or nutritionist that is trained in the process.