Could Your Child Have a Food Allergy? Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

child with hives.jpg

If your child experiences certain reactions after eating, it’s possible that they have an allergy to a type of food. Knowing the signs and symptoms of food allergy can alert you to a potential problem in your own children or in others, which is a first step toward diagnosis and treatment.

Prevalence of Child Food Allergies

Food allergies affect many Americans, with approximately four to six percent of children impacted. This is an estimate, yet many parents are unaware that their children have food allergies. This is particularly true for children of color, who have been shown to have higher food allergy rates compared to white children. Yet, children of other ethnicities or who come from low-income families have a higher prevalence of those food allergies going undiagnosed and untreated. Knowing the potential symptoms can help identify children who may have an undiagnosed food allergy.

Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergy

Maybe you’re wondering if your child could have an allergy to a certain food. It’s possible for this to happen with a range of foods, yet the majority of food allergy cases are connected to the top 8 allergens. These include milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish. If your child faces reactions to one of these foods, it’s possible they have an allergy.

Allergy signs and symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. You could expect to notice symptoms minutes to a few hours after your child eats the food culprit. But you won’t be able to see all allergic symptoms. In addition to the skin, they can affect the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal tract and the cardiovascular system.

If your child has a mild to moderate reaction, they could experience these food allergy symptoms:

  • Redness of the skin around the eyes or mouth

  • Hives, which are itchy, reddish skin bumps

  • Itchy, dry skin rash

  • Nasal congestion

  • Runny nose

  • Sneezing

  • Itchy mouth

  • tchy ear canal

  • Strange taste in the mouth

  • Mild cough

  • Stomach pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Your child could experience severe symptoms of a food allergy, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. These symptoms can impact your child’s heart and breathing. Severe food allergy symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Throat, lip and/or tongue swelling that interferes with breathing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Turning a blue color

  • Wheezing

  • Blood pressure drop, which shows itself through confusion, weakness, feeling faint and passing out

  • Chest pain

  • A weak pulse

  • Losing consciousness

If your child has severe symptoms, they may have anaphylaxis, which has the potential to be deadly if left untreated. If you notice any of the severe symptoms, get immediate medical attention. If you have access to an EpiPen or other epinephrine medication, you should use it as soon as possible and then follow up with medical treatment.

If your child seems to have symptoms of a food allergy, it’s important to get an official diagnosis from a medical professional, ideally an allergist. (But don’t wait for a diagnosis if your child shows severe symptoms—get immediate medical help.) An official diagnosis will let you know for sure whether or not your child has an allergy or determine if it could be a food intolerance or autoimmune disorder instead. Getting a diagnosis will help you understand the problem and manage it in the right way.