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5/14/24 blog post

when to be concerned about food allergies

child with peanuts

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Has your child ever eaten something and not felt great afterwards? Or had a reaction like hives, trouble breathing or throwing up? Depending on the symptoms, this could be a sign of a food allergy. We sat down with Dr. David Morris, chief of allergy and immunology at Dayton Children’s Hospital, to learn more about food allergies.  

what causes food allergies?  

A food allergy is when your body’s immune system sees a type of food as an invader. This is what leads to an allergic reaction. According to KidsHealth, an allergic reaction is the immune system's response in which chemicals like histamine are released in the body. An allergic reaction can cause symptoms that can be life-threatening.   

A person with a food allergy is always at risk for the next allergic reaction being a life-threatening one. Eating even a tiny amount of the food can lead to anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can cause many problems at the same time. People with a food allergy must always avoid the problem food and carry an emergency injectable epinephrine (also known as an epi-pen).   

Some of the most common food allergies include:   

  • Peanuts and other tree nuts  
  • Seafood, such as shrimp  
  • Fish  
  • Milk (usually cow’s milk)  
  • Eggs  
  • Soy  
  • Wheat  
  • Sesame   

what are the symptoms of food allergies?  

Symptoms can range from mild to severe when it comes to food allergies. Symptoms may include:

  1. Skin reactions: This can include hives, itching or swelling. Skin reactions typically occur around the face, lips, tongue and throat.  
  2. Stomach symptoms: Some children may experience an upset stomach, throwing up or diarrhea.  
  3. Breathing trouble: This can include sneezing, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and if severe, anaphylaxis can occur.  

Children that suffer from food allergies may also experience a fast heart rate or fainting.  

when should I seek medical attention for food allergies?  

If you think your child may have a food allergy, talk to their pediatrician. You will probably be referred to an allergist (a doctor who specializes in allergies). The allergist may want to do a skin test. A skin test will see how the body reacts to a small amount of the food that you think may be causing the problem. 

Unfortunately, there is currently no medication available to make food allergies go away. Sometimes food allergies can be outgrown, and others may last forever. The best treatment is to avoid the food that is causing the problem! Always be prepared if your child comes in contact with a food allergy. Carry an epi-pen at all times and know how and when to use it.  

If you have more questions about allergies or think your child may need to see an allergist, click here to schedule an appointment with an allergist today.

David Morris 2023
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David Morris, MD

division chief allergy / immunology
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