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Food Allergies in Toddlers & Children

Katlyn Joy | 1, August 2011


Food Allergies in Toddlers & Children

A food allergy is caused by a reaction in your immune system to a protein in food. This allergic reaction can be mild or even threatening. Food allergies affect 4 out of every 100 American children, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that these conditions are on the rise, with an 18 percent increase between 1997 and 2007. In 2007, there were about 3 million US children with food allergies.


  • In infants, symptoms include vomiting most or all food after a feeding and loose, watery stools several times a day or bloody diarrhea.
  • Skin reactions such as itchy, red rashes, hives or eczema.
  • Watery eyes or runny nose, sneezing and coughing.
  • Abdominal pain, cramping or diarrhea.
  • Facial swelling.
  • Anaphylaxis, or a severe reaction which includes respiratory distress, lowered blood pressure, swelling of mouth and throat, and shock or possibly even death.

Most Common Food Allergies

This is the most common food allergy. People who are truly allergic to milk, they react to the protein in milk rather than the sugar or lactose in milk such as with those who are lactose intolerant. Those with a milk allergy should also avoid cheese, ice cream, yogurt and foods made with milk.

Specifically, the egg white protein is most likely to cause food allergies. It is recommended that parents delay introducing eggs to children younger than one year old.

To avoid problems, try offering infants rice or oat cereals as first foods rather than wheat ones. Introduce wheat between six and eight months of age. If a wheat allergy emerges, foods to avoid include many grains, including breads and cereals, and products made from wheat flour or gluten.

This type of allergy is potentially one of the most serious. Children with peanut allergies often cannot tolerate even very small amounts so must avoid avoids with peanut oil in the ingredients as well.

Tree nuts
Walnuts, pecans, cashews and almonds for instance. Peanuts are not tree nuts so having a peanut allergy does not necessarily indicate a problem with tree nuts.

Typically this includes shellfish such as crustaceans like lobster, crab and shrimp. Molluscan shellfish like mussels, clams and oysters are less likely to cause allergies, however. Some children can experience problems with both types though.

Related foods beside a soy formula allergy include tofu, soy sauce, miso soup, and products with soy.

Food Allergy Facts

Most allergies will be outgrown in childhood except for those with peanut and tree nut allergies. These allergies are rarely outgrown. At most most people who have food allergies, are only allergic to four foods at most. Natural foods, not additives or dyes, are the most common food allergens. One exception are sulfites.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Has a Food Allergy

Speak to your child's pediatrician and get a referral to a pediatric allergist if your doctor agrees your child is showing symptoms of a food allergy. An allergist will test your child for allergies. This might involve skin tests or a blood test. A food elimination diet and diary may also be utilized.

If your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, you will need to be prepared. Consider a medic alert bracelet to let people know the danger of the food to your child. Learn to read food labels carefully and how to work with restaurants to insure foods are safe for your child to eat. You may want to consult with a nutritionist for advice on dealing with your child's food allergies.

Develop a plan in case your child accidentally is exposed to the food he is allergic to. Distribute emergency directions and instructions to relatives, caregivers and your child's school. Your child may require an epinephrine autoinjection device. This device is easily used and carried but you need to follow doctor's instructions on how and when to use it. Also develop a plan on when and who to call should you suspect an allergic reaction with your child's physician.

When planning playdates, birthday or other parties where eating is involved, you will want to alert other parents that your child has a food allergy, so that they can plan available foods appropriately. Many times, schools will alert parents about food allergy risks, so that snacks and lunches do not contain items that could harm your child accidentally.

Related Articles

Healthy Eating Strategies for Toddlers

Prevent Childhood Obesity in the Toddler Years

Quick and Easy Snacks For Your Toddler

Back Up Your Toddler's Diet With Vitamins

Healthy Eating is not a Discipline Issue


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Holly James Mar 7, 2013 04:22:11 PM ET

This is a great article! I've had to take my daughter to a pediatric allergist in Illinois a couple times and he told me all of these things. Food allergies can be very serious but you should always get a second opinion. You don't want your child to stop eating potentially beneficial things to find out it's something else. Thanks for sharing!

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Kim D. Nov 18, 2011 02:00:37 AM ET

I just want to add something regarding allergies. Sometimes, doctors tell us that the allergies are from food. Let me tell you that it can also be from latex nipples used. My best friend's first born was swelling on the mouth and we thought that it was due to his formula. We later found out that it was the latex nipple he had been using. So we bought silicone ones from coolpacifiers and had the bottles customized with bands too. Very cute. Hope this helps :-)

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