Recognizing and Handling Food Allergies in Young Children

Introducing solids to an infant is an important milestone that many parents look forward to during the first year. However, it is important to begin slowly by introducing one food at a time to watch out for potential reactions to a new food. While every parent worries about food allergies in infants and young children, it is important to know that most food allergies are mild. Additionally, many reactions can be prevented by delaying foods that are more likely to cause a reaction. Here, is what every parent or caregiver needs to know about recognizing and handling food allergies in young children.

Common Food Allergies

Certain foods are more likely to cause a reaction than others. Knowing these foods can help a person to watch their child closely after the first few times they try one. Generally, milk and egg products are some of the top allergenic foods. Many children also have a reaction to peanuts and shellfish. Because of the severity of peanut and shellfish allergies, many doctor’s and dieticians recommend that giving these foods should be delayed until a child is older. Soy and wheat are also common allergies. Due to their prevalence in many foods, this type of allergy can sometimes take a while to diagnose.

Symptoms of Food Allergies

An allergic reaction to a specific food can range from mild to severe. Usually, a reaction will occur soon after a food has been eaten, but it can take several days for some symptoms to appear. Hives, a rash around the mouth or flushing skin are a few of the most visible symptoms. Certain foods may cause the tongue, lips and mouth to begin to swell. A child who is having a severe reaction may also begin to cough or wheeze. When the reaction is very severe, the child’s throat may constrict and lead to a loss of consciousness. In these instances, prompt medical attention is necessary.

How to Handle a Reaction

A mild allergic reaction, such as a rash, should be reported to a young child’s pediatrician. Once a diagnosis has been made, the child’s doctor will probably recommend a special diet that is designed to avoid that food. It is important to remember that a child who has a mild reaction the first time may have a more severe reaction the next time they try the food. Children with severe reactions will need an emergency plan in case of accidental exposure. The doctor may prescribe emergency medications that can control a reaction until medical providers can arrive.