Identifying Food Allergies

Food allergies have been a growing concern among new parents, as the medical community raises more awareness of how common they are becoming. With frightening stories circulating about sudden and severe reactions to baby foods, many parents are anxious about allergies and taking extra precautions to be prepared.

Recognizing a food allergy isn’t too difficult in most situations, although you might not realize what it is at first. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in the case of a truly severe reaction will require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of a Food Allergy

Common food allergy reactions include difficulty breathing, wheezing, swelling, rashes, itching, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The onset of the symptoms is generally fairly quick, within a few minutes to a few hours after your child eats the allergenic food. In rare, severe cases, a food allergy can result in anaphylaxis, where the throat swells up, blood pressure drops and the child may go into shock and be as risk of death if not treated immediately. This type of reaction requires a 911 call without delay and a visit to the emergency room.

How to Determine Which Food Caused a Reaction

If the reaction occurs early in your child’s introduction to solid foods, it should be fairly easy to tell which food is the culprit. When introducing new foods to a baby, allowing a space of several days in between adding new foods will allow you to tell whether a reaction develops in response to the latest new addition to the menu.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy. Some allergies can develop even if the child has tried the same food in the past with no reaction; allergic reactions can happen after several uneventful servings of the food. And in older children, who eat a much more varied diet, it can be very difficult to tell which food is to blame.

If you have a good idea which baby food caused the reaction, you should immediately remove it from your child’s diet. Even if the initial reaction was mild, a stronger reaction could occur the next time. If you aren’t certain which food is to blame, start by eliminating the most likely culprit – watch for highly allergenic foods such a dairy, strawberries, eggs and nuts as likely choices.

An allergist can perform tests to find out specifically which food your child is allergic too, but you will generally figure it out fairly quickly if you keep track of what your child ate and when reactions occurred.

What to Do If an Allergy is Discovered

First of all, you should of course prevent your child from eating that food. Next, make sure that any caregivers such as grandparents and babysitters are aware of the allergy. In the case of a severe allergy, you might be required to carry a special injectable medication that can be used in case of accidental contact with the food. You should also make sure all caregivers are ready and able to provide the injection should it become necessary.

Allergies can change over time, and your child may outgrow the allergy. Talk to your doctor about this possibility and how to go about re-introducing the food with caution. Some allergies are so severe that it is unlikely they will be outgrown and not worth taking the risk of finding out.

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