Food Allergy

Food allergies — in both adults and children — can prompt wheezing, hives or stomach discomfort. Read on to learn more.

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Food Allergy Symptoms

An allergic reaction to food can cause reactions such as wheezing (an asthma attack), hives, allergic rhinitis (itchy nose, sneezing, blocked nose), vomiting or stomach discomfort.

To learn more about abdominal pain in children, click here

What Triggers Food Allergies

In a study done locally, bird's nest was the most common culprit. Other foods that can cause symptoms were eggs, milk and crustacean seafood. Nuts and fish can cause allergic reactions in Western populations, but were rarely seen as triggers among Singapore children.

About the Condition: Types of Food Allergy

Food allergy is an immunologically-mediated reaction against food. This means that the body's immune system, which usually fights infection, produces substances that react to food. The reaction tends to happen soon after eating the offending food, usually within 30 minutes, and can last up to 24 hours.

Patients and parents of kids with asthma or eczema will sometimes report that certain foods or drinks make the condition worse. For tips on managing your child’s asthma, you can read more here.

Others feel that certain foods make them cough more. The foods that are usually blamed are milk, cold drinks, sweets, chocolate, seafood and chicken.

These children are then labelled as being food-allergic, with the family practicing strict avoidance of the offending substance. However, the truth is that incidents of food allergy are probably higher in public perception than they are in reality.

There is limited data on food allergy in Singapore, but it is estimated that not more than five percent of children below 12 years of age have a food allergy. This declines to about one percent in adults.
 
Some types of food allergy, like a sensitivity to milk and egg, are usually outgrown. This is less likely with a seafood or nut allergy. Your doctor may recommend retesting after a certain age to confirm that the allergy has been outgrown.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

If the reaction was clearly linked to the food and was severe, take your child to see an allergist. In the meantime, he or she should avoid the offending substance altogether. Even small amounts of it may cause a similar reaction. Your child will also need to have medicines on standby.

If you are unsure whether food causes worsening of your child's condition, it may be useful to keep a food diary. This way, you can tell if a particular food is the culprit. Bring the diary with you when you consult your doctor. A food diary is helpful as it may indicate a hidden ingredient that is causing the reaction.

Even if your child seems to exhibit symptoms of food allergy, try not to label them as food-allergic before they have been properly diagnosed by a medical professional. Your child is growing and needs a variety of food to ensure adequate nutrition, so consult a doctor if you have concerns before radically changing their diet. There are simple allergy skin prick tests that can be done to aid in the diagnosis, and rash treatment options to help deal with some food allergy symptoms.



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