Everyone knows someone with a food allergy—those friends who avoid shellfish or a family member that has to check labels for any peanut content. We often don’t find food allergies in adults strange. It’s not concerning, either, because adults can easily avoid their allergens or have medicines ready.
It’s a different story for children, though. Your kids, or even yourself, might not know what’s going on when youngsters experience an itchy skin rash, tingling in the tongue or lips, tightness in the throat, vomiting, or stomach pains after eating a certain food item.
Makati Medical Center, the Philippine’s premier healthcare institution, breaks down unusual food allergies in kids and why you need to consult a pediatrician.
Understanding kids’ allergies
Keeping kids away from marshmallows may be difficult, but for a small percentage of people, it’s a necessity. “It may be the gelatin that’s present in marshmallows and gummi candies that triggers an allergic reaction,” explains Fatima Santos-Ocampo, MD, allergologist from the Makati Medical Center. Since these types of food are often present in kiddie parties or school events, parents should make sure to let their kids know what foods to avoid.
Herbs and Spices
Depending on where you are in the world, spice allergies may be considered more common than unusual. In Europe, celery is a common allergen, while it is mustard in Australia. This may be a difficult allergy to avoid since herbs and spices are an integral part of most dishes, especially Indian and Asian cuisine. Dr. Santos-Ocampo suggests prepping kids’ meals at home. “Avoid having them buy from the canteen and make their school lunch or snacks instead. It’s safer and healthier. It should also be explained to the kids why they must avoid eating from their friends’ lunch boxes.”
“Most allergies are caused by protein, but with meat allergies, it can also be the sugar,” says Dr. Santos-Ocampo. It can be any meat from chicken to lamb to pork. And when you’re allergic to one, you might be allergic to another. Beef allergies are the most common of this kind, and usually involve allergy to cow’s milk as well.
Avocados, bananas, chestnuts, and kiwis are an allergen for up to half the people who also have a latex allergy. Many proteins found in these fruits are structurally similar to those found in raw latex (found in rubber products). Fortunately, allergic reactions to the food are less severe than reactions to latex. “While you might be thinking that all fruits would be good for your child, take note of their reactions to everything you feed them,” says Dr. Santos-Ocampo.
The danger of misidentifying an allergen
An allergic reaction could happen right away or a few hours after the person eats it. Your immune system, which is responsible for protecting you from germs and disease, can misidentify certain foods as dangerous for you, thus leading to an allergic reaction. But it’s unpredictable which foods your immune system will consider a threat.
Dr. Santos-Ocampo recommends taking the child to an allergologist. Sharing an accurate and detailed food history with the doctor can be very useful. “Sometimes, if people eat something like chocolate and they get an allergic reaction from it, they just avoid all chocolates even if it was just the nuts or the milk ingredient that caused the allergy,” she shares.
The danger of misidentifying an allergen, Dr. Santos-Ocampo says, isn’t just in missing out on different foods, but even in unknowingly triggering the allergy. “If you think you’re allergic to chocolate when in fact you’re allergic to nuts, you might end up eating peanut butter thinking it’s fine, only to suffer a terrible allergic reaction,” she says.
What to do after seeing signs of allergic reaction?
A serious, life-threatening allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms include swelling of the lips, tongue, or eyelids, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. This requires an immediate trip to the emergency room or prompt medical attention.
To prevent the worst outcome, Dr. Santos-Ocampo recommends that the patient and family be taught how to perform life-saving measures even before the doctors or Emergency Medical Technicians reach them. “This is part of what we call an Anaphylaxis Action Plan,” she shares.
“When you know what the child’s allergens are and how he or she reacts to them, it’ll be easier to avoid or manage,” Dr. Santos-Ocampo says.