6 Things To Know About Food Allergies & Intolerances

What is an allergy? What is a food intolerance? How do you identify either of these? What do you do when your baby has a reaction?  If your child is suffering from an allergy, or a suspected food intolerance, these are some of the things you need to know.

What is an allergy?

Simply put, an allergy is the body’s inappropriate response to a normally harmless substance. The immune system identifies substances such as pollens, foods and even animal hair as a threat and reacts in a manner, which can prove harmful.

Common food allergens & intolerances amongst children

  • Seafood
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat/ gluten
  • Eggs
  • Dairy

The common symptoms

Different allergens cause different symptoms. The type of reaction caused by an allergy can give your doctor a better idea as to the type of allergen that may have caused it.  Remember, these symptoms do not guarantee that your child has an allergy, but may be a good indication.

  • Itchy, watery, red or swollen eyes
  • Hives, rashes or eczema
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath or coughing
  • Sinus pain or headaches
  • Swollen or itchy lips and tongue
  • Runny, blocked or itchy nose
  • Vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea

Any child may develop allergies, but they are more common in children from families with a history of such reactions.

What is a food intolerance?

A food intolerance is when you have difficulty digesting certain foods and have an unpleasant physical reaction to them. 

It can lead to symptoms, such as bloating and stomach pain, which can usually come a few hours after consuming the food

What are the symptoms of food intolerance?

In general, people who have a food intolerance tend to experience:

  • tummy pain, bloating, wind and/or diarrhoea
  • skin rashes and itching

It can be difficult to know for sure whether you have a food intolerance as these are very general symptoms, typical of many other conditions too.

Is there a food intolerance test?

There are no gold standard tests for food intolerances unless you do an elimination diet, cutting the suspected food out of your diet for two – six weeks and reintroducing it back into your diet. However, you should not do this with a child unless you are working with a health professional.

I would recommend if you suspect a food intolerance, to keep a food diary, this can help you paint a picture of what is happening and is very helpful to take to your health professional.  

Food diary: What to note

  • What foods you eat
  • any symptoms you have after eating these foods
  • When these symptoms come on