Common Food Allergies in Kids
Cow’s milk is the most common cause of food allergies (in addition to being a common cause of food intolerances). Unlike cow’s milk intolerance which is usually a reaction to the sugar lactose, allergies to cow’s milk are usually from the proteins that are in the milk. Infants who have an allergy to cow’s milk based formulas should usually be changed to an elemental or hydrolyzed formula, such as Nutramigen or Alimentum. Soy formulas and goat’s milk may not be good alternatives in this case, although they usually are for older children, because many infants with allergies to cow’s milk proteins are also allergic to the proteins in soy and goat’s milk.
Other foods to avoid if your child is allergic to cow’s milk include, but are not limited to, buttermilk, cheese, evaporated and condensed milk, ice cream, yogurt, instant mashed potatoes, margarine, casein, cream, hydrolysates, lactalbumin, nougat, sour cream, whey, and other foods made with milk. Older children who are unable to drink milk or eat milk based foods should be sure to have additional sources of calcium in their diet, including calcium fortified juices.
Eggs, especially the proteins in egg whites are also a common cause of food allergies. To help prevent allergies to eggs, it is a good idea to avoid giving egg whites to infants under a year old. Other foods to avoid include, but are not limited to foods that are derived from eggs, including egg substitutes, and foods that contain albumin, globulin, ovalbumin and vitellin. Also avoid foods that are prepared with eggs, which may include French toast, cake, cookies, pancakes, eggnog, bread, ice cream, pasta, puddings, creamy salad dressings and foods with custard or cream fillings.
Suggestion: To prevent allergies to eggs, it is a good idea to avoid giving egg whites to infants under a year old.
Soybean allergies are usually found in infants given a soy formula, but can also be found in older children who drink soy milk. Other foods that contain soy proteins and may cause allergic symptoms in children allergic to soy include, but are not limited to tofu, miso soup, soy sauce, foods prepared in soybean oil, veggie burgers and hot-dogs, and ingredients on a food labile including emulsifiers, hydrolyzed or textured vegetable protein.
Wheat allergy can develop in infants given a wheat cereal, and is probably best to offer a rice or oat cereal first and delay giving wheat until after your child is 6-8 months old. Other foods that may cause problems in children allergic to wheat include, but are not limited to many breads and cereals (unless they are made from oats, rye, corn or rice) made with wheat flour or enriched flour. Also avoid foods with cornstarch, gluten, semolina, all purpose or white flour.
Peanuts are not true nuts, but rather are actually legumes from the pea and bean family. Children with allergies to peanuts can be very sensitive to foods with even very small amounts of peanuts in them. Avoid all foods with peanuts, including candy, baked goods, chili, many ethnic foods (including Thai, Asian, and Indonesian foods), peanut butter, and mixed nuts. Children who are allergic to peanuts can often eat tree nuts, such as walnuts or pecans, since they are from separate plant families.
Tree nut allergies are also possible, and can include allergies to walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds and hazel nuts and other nuts in hard shells. You should avoid foods prepared with tree nuts, including many kinds of candy, baked goods and different oils.
Corn is rarely a cause of food allergies. If your child does seem to be allergic to corn, you should avoid corn based cereals and breads, corn syrup, and caramel.
Certain food dyes and preservatives, especially sulfites, may also cause food allergy symptoms.
- While children often outgrow their food allergies, if your child had a severe reaction to a food, then you should talk with your Pediatrician or allergist before reintroducing the food.
- Talk with and educate other family members and caregivers about your child’s food allergies. Most people do not understand how serious food allergies can be, and may think it is all right to give just a small amount of a food that your child is allergic to.
- Educate your child about his allergy, so that he can learn to avoid foods that he is allergic to.
- If your child does not improve with these interventions or if he has had a severe allergic reaction, then you should consider having him see an allergy specialist for testing to figure out what foods he is allergic to and to possibly start allergy injections.
- Children with severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis should wear a medical alert bracelet to notify others of his condition and should carry an epinephrine autoinjector (such as the EpiPen JR) to ensure rapid treatment during an allergic reaction.
- Most importantly, learn to read food labels and look for ingredients that your child may be allergic to and practice strict avoidance of those foods. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, then call the manufacturer before giving it to your child to be safe.