Common Child Allergies & Intolerances | Lifelab Testing

Common Child Allergies & Intolerances

Last Updated: 21st November 2022 · Written by Kate Young

Food allergies are common in both children and adults, where around 5% of children under five suffer from food allergies. The prevalence of food allergies has been on the rise. From 1997 to 2007, food allergies in children under 18 years increased by 18%. Even though some children outgrow food allergies before their teen years, allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and fish may be lifelong. Identifying food allergies in children is very important as it prevents them from suffering from severe symptoms that could harm their health and well-being. Allergies can also affect a child’s nutrient intake and growth {1}. Allergies can also be life-threatening because they can sometimes cause a condition known as anaphylaxis which needs immediate medical attention.

Around 90% of food allergies are caused by eight common foods, which we will go into more detail below. Read on to find out the most common child allergies and intolerances, including symptoms and testing.

Common child allergies

Food allergies can present in infants even when the mother is breastfeeding. This is because the child reacts to foods the mother has eaten. Therefore, it may be necessary for a mother to remove food items from their diet to prevent their baby from experiencing symptoms. When a mother eliminates these foods from their diet, it relieves the child, preventing further complications. It is common for children to develop allergies once they start weaning as they react to the foods being introduced to their systems for the first time. Even feeding a child milk powder can cause an allergic reaction, considering the primary ingredient in the milk powder is cow’s milk.

There are certain foods which cause approximately 90% of food allergies in children. These include:

  • Peanuts.
  • Milk.
  • Eggs.
  • Fish.
  • Shellfish (crab, lobster, crayfish, and shrimp).
  • Soy.
  • Tree nuts (for example, pecans, cashews, and walnuts).
  • Wheat.

Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish tend to be the most severe in children because they are most likely to develop life-threatening anaphylaxis. These four main food allergies are also the ones that tend to last for a lifetime. It is possible for children to outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, soy, and wheat, commonly during or before their teen years.

Children’s hayfever

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to allergens such as grass pollen. It is medically referred to as allergic rhinitis. During the warmer seasons, it is common to see children play outside, where they will inhale airborne pollen. A child’s pollen allergy triggers the mucous membrane, triggering hay fever allergy symptoms.

If a child has hay fever, you’ll notice they’ll start sneezing; experience laboured breathing, watery eyes, and runny nose. Hay fever in children occurs because their body’s immune system mistakes the pollen for “invaders” like bacteria. This causes the immune system to release substances such as histamines which often cause hay fever symptoms. There are different pollination seasons for various trees and grass. So, depending on which specific plants cause hay fever symptoms in your child, they may only experience symptoms if it’s a particular plant’s pollination season. It is therefore beneficial to identify which plant causes symptoms, which can be done through an allergy test which analyses a blood sample against different grasses.

Even though some children have easily identifiable hay fever symptoms, other kids don’t experience such visible symptoms, and their lives aren’t affected when it’s hay fever season. So, the severity of hay fever symptoms varies from one child to the next.

Food Allergies in children

As listed above, there are food allergies in children which are more common than others. We will now expand on these allergies and how they develop.

Peanuts and tree nuts

Peanuts are different from tree nuts because, as the name suggests, tree nuts are nuts that grow on trees, while peanuts grow beneath the ground. Even though children may have a peanut allergy, they may be able to tolerate tree nuts. Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, hazel nuts, pecans, cashews, and Brazil nuts; all the nuts are in hard shells. Allergies to either tree nuts, peanuts, or both, can bring about a reaction known as anaphylaxis, which occurs within minutes of consuming these nuts and is life-threatening. Ensure that caregivers, teachers, and family members are aware of your child’s allergy. Nuts contain essential nutrients but aren’t a necessary part of a diet, so you can easily eliminate this from your child’s diet.

Milk

Milk is a common cause of allergies in infants. 2% of children under two years suffer from milk allergy {2}. Milk allergy in babies is common because this is the first allergen consumed in such huge amounts, especially if the child is being bottle-fed or formula. Most people who bottle feed their children often feed them with cow’s milk. However, a child can develop milk allergy simply from breastfeeding, but that’s less common. Once you have identified that milk is the cause of your baby’s symptoms, it is necessary to eliminate milk from your infant’s diet. Sheep and goat milk aren’t good alternatives because they contain the same allergens present in cow’s milk. Breastfeeding mothers should also eliminate dairy from their diet to prevent triggering their infants.

Babies’ most common milk allergy symptoms are colic and itchy, dry eczema. You may also notice that your baby vomits after drinking milk and also experiences diarrhoea and gassiness. You can substitute milk for soy milk or soy formula if they aren’t allergic to soy protein. If your child doesn’t tolerate soy, your paediatrician may recommend a specialised formula made of hydrolyzed protein and amino acid elemental formula.

As your child’s immune system develops, they might outgrow milk allergy, and you can introduce it back to their diet. However, you should only do so once you have verified that your child is allergy-free, by consulting their doctor. Milk is essential in a child’s diet as it helps form strong bones, muscles, and teeth. It also helps with nerve function and the health of every system in the body. For older children, you can ensure they get other food substitutes rich in calcium like:

  • Dark-green leafy vegetables.
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice.
  • Canned fish ate with the bones (e.g., sardines, salmon).
  • Dried figs and prunes.
  • Tofu.
  • Dried beans.

Eggs

The common protein in eggs that causes an allergic reaction is mainly found in egg whites. Even though your child can consume egg yolks, it is better to keep away from both because of possible contamination. Eggs contain essential proteins and nutrients but aren’t necessary for a balanced diet. You can substitute eggs for fish, dairy products, legumes, meat, and grains. Ensure you also check foods when grocery shopping for possible egg ingredients.

Fish and shellfish

Shellfish fall into two categories;

  • Crustaceans, like shrimp, crab, or lobster.
  • Mollusks, like clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, octopus, or squid.


People who are allergic to shellfish, will either experience symptoms when consuming foods from one group, or both. Most allergic reactions from shellfish result from someone consuming the shellfish, while others get reactions simply from inhaling the scent of shellfish cooking. Shellfish allergies usually last a lifetime; hence one needs to learn to avoid and manage them.

Fish allergy involves fish like tuna and cod. People with fish allergies can be allergic to one type of fish and not the other. Rarely people with a fish allergy can get a reaction from breathing in the scent of fish cooking or simply touching it. Therefore, most times, allergic reactions come from eating fish. Fish allergies often last a lifetime. The most common shellfish and fish allergy symptoms include wheezing, trouble breathing, coughing, hoarseness, throat tightness, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, itchy, watery, or swollen eyes, hives, red spots, swelling, a drop in blood pressure, and causing lightheadedness or loss of consciousness (passing out). Allergic reactions can differ from one child to the next. If you notice your child is experiencing anaphylaxis, symptoms often include a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and trouble breathing. You need to call emergency medical services or rush to the nearest hospital, as this is life-threatening. If your child is breastfeeding, you may notice that your baby experiences symptoms when the mother eats certain foods, such as shellfish or fish. As a result, the mother needs to eliminate these from her diet.

Soy

If you start feeding your child soy baby formula, you may notice symptoms such as a rash, runny nose, wheezing, diarrhoea, or vomiting, which results from an allergic reaction to soy protein. It is possible that children allergic to cow’s milk can be allergic to soy too. Your paediatrician can recommend a low-allergenic formula that is safe for your baby to consume. Even with a soy allergy, it is possible to tolerate soy oil since it contains less protein.

Wheat

Oats and rice are the most common grains first introduced to children because they’re less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Once children show no allergic reaction to wheat, it is common to introduce wheat next. If your child is allergic to wheat proteins, you will notice hives and wheezing immediately upon consumption. Reactions to wheat can also be a symptom of celiac disease. If so, you’ll see symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, irritability, poor weight gain, and slow growth. You can observe signs of celiac disease shortly after your child has had their first bowl of cereal. It is common not to make a diagnosis until adulthood since some children can have the condition at a low level for years.

Pet allergy

You will notice symptoms such as wheezing, stuffy nose, and watery and itchy eyes as soon as your child comes in contact with a pet dander. It is also possible for your child to experience an asthma attack upon coming in contact with a cat or dog. Your child can experience symptoms by inhaling pet dander or coming in contact with pet saliva. This allergic reaction is due to the proteins found in animal skin cells, saliva, and urine. Some allergy therapy or allergy shots help kids with a pet allergy. Alternatively, you can stay in a pet-free home for their sake.

Kids’ allergy symptoms

basic-allergy-test-front
Our Basic Allergy Test.

It is expected that most allergies in children aren’t fully developed until the age of seven, which is why most kids outgrow their allergies earlier. If you think your child may be suffering from an allergy, you must talk to your doctor or their paediatrician. You can also get your child an Allergy Test. It is recommended to consult with your doctor before ordering a test, and is most suitable for children aged 7 and over. This child allergy testing for kids will check for all the common food allergies, pet allergies, and hay fever allergies. All you need to do is order the test kit, take the sample and send it back to the labs, where the sample will be tested against 38 common allergens, and you’ll get your results within a week.

The common allergy symptoms to look out for in children include:

  • Sneezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Itchy mouth/throat.
  • Watering eyes.
  • Wheezing or chest tightness.
  • Rashes.
  • Hives or swelling.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • In extreme cases, anaphylaxis.

Difference between allergy and intolerance

Even though it’s common to see the word “intolerance” and “allergy” interchanged, they are different conditions, and you’ll see why after reading this. A food allergy arises when you consume an allergen, and the immune system mistakes it for an invader, releasing histamines which result in allergy symptoms that we notice within minutes to two hours after consumption of the allergen. Food allergies mainly occur in children because their stomach lining isn’t fully developed yet.

Food intolerance, on the other hand, happens because your body lacks a certain enzyme necessary to digest the proteins in the food consumed. Upon lack of enough enzyme to digest said proteins, gastrointestinal symptoms manifest. These symptoms manifest because undigested food gets pushed into the large intestines, where it ferments and produces gas, causing constipation, gassiness, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. If you think your child may be suffering from food intolerance, you can use a home-lab Intolerance Test to check for possible food intolerances they may have.

Most of these symptoms of food intolerance cease to occur once you pass that food. However, in the case of allergies, symptoms such as hives and rashes take a while to stop appearing after taking medication. Unlike food allergies, food intolerances aren’t life-threatening but just uncomfortable. Allergy symptoms appear almost immediately after contact with an allergen, while food intolerance symptoms can take upto 48 hours to show. You can check more about the difference between a food allergy and an intolerance.

Food intolerance in children

Food intolerance is a reaction to the food one has consumed. Food intolerances result from the body lacking certain enzymes to break down the food proteins or the body reacting to chemicals in that food. Most people can tolerate small amounts of foods that they’re intolerant to. Symptoms of food intolerance are often delayed and can happen days to hours after food consumption.

The most common food intolerance in children includes gluten and lactose. Lactose is a sugar in milk, and most children find it hard to digest, hence lactose intolerance in children. Gluten, on the other hand, is a protein present in barley, wheat, and rye. Children are often exposed to gluten once they begin weaning since they’re exposed to items like biscuits, cereals, and bread which often contain gluten. Gluten intolerance in children isn’t life-threatening; your child won’t experience symptoms like anaphylaxis. However, the most common food intolerance symptoms include brain fog, headaches, migraines, dizziness, joint pain, and rashes on elbows, knees, buttocks, or the back of the neck.

Child intolerance test

If you notice gastrointestinal symptoms in your child, it most likely means that there is a food that they’re intolerant to. To narrow down the food intolerance your child is suffering from, you can take a home-lab child Intolerance Test. This test will check your child’s sample against 159 foods and drinks that could be causing intolerance symptoms. With the test comes a 30-minute free consultation with a nutritional therapist who will help you figure out the proper diet for your child that won’t result in weight loss or dietary deficiencies. Get your child tested today to prevent those simple intolerance symptoms from turning into severe cases.

References

1. Christie, L., Hine, R. J., Parker, J. G., & Burks, W. (2002). Food allergies in children affect nutrient intake and growth. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102(11), 1648-1651.

2. Heine, R. G., Elsayed, S., Hosking, C. S., & Hill, D. J. (2002). Cow’s milk allergy in infancy. Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology, 2(3), 217-225.

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