There are many different types of food that may cause an allergic reaction in children. The most common allergens are dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, nuts, poultry, seafood, and chocolate. It is difficult to diagnose a food allergy but it is important to understand what causes an allergic reaction and how it affects your child. It is also important to work with your child’s physician to identify possible allergens and understand the challenges of diagnosing food allergies.
This article will overview current diagnostics for food allergies among children and how you can best prepare and act.
What Causes an Allergy?
Your immune system protects your body against harmful substances such as viruses. But if your immune system is overly sensitive, it reacts to allergens such as pollen and specific foods. One of the many ways your body reacts to these allergens is to increase mucus production, which causes sneezing, nasal swelling, itchiness in your nose and eye, and other symptoms. More serious allergies, however, can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
How allergens affect allergy sufferers can vary from person to person, season to season. Although doctors don’t know exactly why, common allergies are specifically identified among children.
What Are the Implications of Pediatric Food Allergy?
A food allergy impacts a child’s life medically, psychologically and socially. If a child suffers from a pediatric food allergy, the quality of life is affected if the child has to avoid basic foods, including milk, eggs, wheat, leading to long-term nutritional problems. Food allergy may also lead to food-related anxiety as children get older, a fear of accidental exposure. The child may also avoid social situations for fear of exposure.
In the long term, anxiety and avoidance can promote frustration and resentment, isolating a child from his or her peer group. A child may also be the only one of his or her peers to have a food allergy and thus may feel different. This may not only increase the child’s frustration but also expose him or her to misunderstanding from his or her peers.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
The first step an allergist will take to diagnosing a food allergy is a thorough medical history. Next the allergist may conduct tests to help identify a food allergy. While these tests do not always provide clear-cut answers, the allergist will combine your test results with the information from your medical history to provide a diagnosis. These tests may include:
- Skin prick test
- Blood test
- Oral food challenge
- Trial elimination diet
Once your allergen has been identified, your doctor will instruct you to remove it from your child’s diet. It is important to eliminate ALL foods containing this allergen ingredient. If your child is allergic to eggs, you must check all product labels for the ingredient as well. If your child is allergic to wheat gluten, you may have to avoid most grains including cookies, cakes, pies, pasta, as well as some processed cheeses, salad and dressings.
Take this time to also speak with your doctor about food alternatives. These are important questions to discuss with your allergist. They will guide you towards foods that will fulfill the nutritional value that your child may lose if they must avoid certain foods.
Are There Any Challenges Diagnosing Pediatric Food Allergies?
Accurate diagnosis is important to an effective food allergy treatment. Without it, pediatric patients may avoid foods to which they are not allergic to or consume foods that cause severe physical effects.
To accurately diagnose food allergies, your allergist requires a detailed medical history, physical exam and diagnostic testing. Diagnostic tools range from skin and blood tests to exploratory options such as endoscopic biopsy.
Each patient requires a customized approach based on the patient’s age, symptoms and severity of allergic response. Depending on the symptoms associated with the suspected food allergen, a pediatric allergist or immunologist specializing in food allergy is a recommended resource for accurate diagnosis.
Schedule a Consultation
If you believe your child may have food allergies, it is important to seek the right medical help. An allergist/immunologist is a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and other diseases of the immune system. Testing done by allergist can give you precise information about what your child is and is not allergic to. If your child is allergic to any substances, you and your allergist can develop a treatment plan to manage or even get rid of your child’s symptoms.
To get you started, discuss and review your treatment options in order find the perfect option for you. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukla today, for treatment options.