The symptoms of a food allergic reaction can range from mild to severe and affect different parts of the body1. If the gut is affected, this can cause vomiting and diarrhoea; if the skin is affected, this can cause a rash or hives; if the airways are affected, this can cause difficulty breathing2. Very rarely, food allergies can be severe, causing life threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis1.
A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly reacts to certain proteins in food. This causes the release of ‘allergy antibodies’ (IgE antibodies) which lead to the symptoms of an allergic reaction1. Some children will also develop immune system reactions to food that do not cause the release of these antibodies. These reactions are known as non-IgE mediated reactions and symptoms are generally less severe2.
Food allergy symptoms can occur immediately after the food is eaten or the symptoms may be delayed2. Usually if a child is suffering an IgE mediated reaction then symptoms will occur immediately or within a few hours. If the reaction is non-IgE mediated, then symptoms will usually be delayed for a few hours to a few days2. The following may be clues that your child is suffering from a food allergy:
- Swelling of the face lips or eyes
- Hives or welts on the skin
- Abdominal pain and vomiting
- In severe reactions: difficulty breathing and going pale and floppy
- Abdominal pain
- Colic/excessive crying
- Reflux of stomach contents
Most babies will be affected by colic, reflux, vomiting or diarrhoea at one time or another. Although these symptoms may be caused by a food allergy, often there is a harmless explanation for them. Nobody knows your baby as well as you do, so trust your instincts when deciding if further action may be necessary.
If you have found one or more symptoms that match what your child is experiencing, the questions listed in the Symptom Checklist will help you to find out if a food allergy could be the cause. Answering these questions will bring you closer to determining if and how your child is affected but please don’t hesitate to discuss the test results with your child’s healthcare professional.
The symptoms of a food allergic reaction can range from mild to severe and affect different parts of the body. Food allergy symptoms can occur immediately after the food is eaten or the symptoms may be delayed.
- 2016. Food Allergy. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Viewed 20 June 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/food-allergy
- Allergy UK. 2012. What is food allergy? British allergy foundation. Viewed 20 June 2016 https://www.allergyuk.org/what-is-food-allergy/what-is-food-allergy