Food related medical issues, including food allergies, affect more children each year. Currently 1 in 13 kids suffer from one or more food allergies, up 50 percent from 1997 and 32 percent since 2007 according to recent CDC studies. Parents, schools and recreational clubs are working more diligently than ever to prevent food allergy emergencies, particularly among children. The growing awareness has brought attention to a very serious issue and has many people wondering whether pervasive food allergy issues may also affect their own children.
It’s important to mention that food allergies are immune diseases. Generally, an allergic reaction occurs when an allergen is introduced to the body but the immune system mistakes the allergen as a harmful substance and attacks it. Allergens do not have to be eaten for a reaction to occur. Allergies can affect a child’s entire body and allergic reactions can be minor, moderate, serious or life threatening.
Recognizing the following three early warning signs of a food allergy can help you get treatment for your child and immediate medical assistance in the event of an allergy emergency.
1. Stomach Discomfort
Gastrointestinal issues are among the top concerns related to early warning signs of a food allergy. Children who experience frequent stomach problems after eating certain foods may have an intolerance or an allergy. Symptoms related to food intolerances generally appear over time after eating. Symptoms of food allergies generally occur immediately, though they can appear after several hours. Stomach discomfort may appear in the form of bloating, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, nausea or vomiting.
2. Skin Irritation
Eczema is a medical condition where patches of skin become dry, inflamed or irritated. Many children and about one third of infants with eczema have a food allergy. However, the food allergy only worsens the eczema; it is not the primary cause. Other types of skin irritation that often occur in children with food allergies are rashes, itchy skin and hives, which are characterized by a swelling of the lips, eyes and tongue.
3. Breathing Related Issues
A child who has an allergy may experience asthma related issues, such as shortness of breath, when exposed to an allergen. The most common symptoms of a food allergy are wheezing, persistent cough and sinus congestion after exposure.
If a child experiences anaphylaxis, trouble swallowing or breathing or a sudden drop in blood pressure, call 911 immediately. Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction.
Seeking Medical Help
Do not attempt to self-diagnose your child. If you suspect your child may have a food allergy, seek medical attention. A qualified pediatrician or allergist can provide proper testing, diagnosis and treatment for your child.