A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to a certain food that the body reacts to as harmful. The immune system responds by creating specific disease-fighting antibodies (called Immunoglobulin E or IgE). When the food allergen is consumed again, the IgE antibodies release histamines in an effort to expel the foreign body. Histamine is a powerful chemical that can affect the cardiovascular system,skin, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tract.
An estimated 4% to 6% of U.S. children under age 18 have food allergies. The prevalence of food allergies and associated anaphylaxis appears to be on the rise.
Although any child can be at risk for food allergies, children are at greater risk if they are younger than age 3 or have a family history of asthma and allergies, a genetic predisposition to allergic disease, or elevated allergen-specific serum immunoglobulin levels (IgE concentrations). A child with one allergic parent has a 33% chance of developing allergies (70% if both parents have allergies).
Common Food Allergens
Eight types of foods account for 90% of all food-allergy reactions:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamia nuts)
Symptoms of Food Allergy
Some people are so sensitive to food allergens that the odor of a particular food can cause a reaction.
Symptoms may appear almost immediately or up to two hours after the food is consumed. Common Symptoms include (but are not limited to):
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling in the tongue and throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal cramps
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Eczema or rash
- Coughing or wheezing
- Loss of consciousness
New studies show that taking antibiotics early in life can decrease helpful gut flora, making a child more susceptible to developing food allergies. Studies have shown that taking probiotics can increase good flora and less the chances of food allergy development.