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Is it a Food Allergy? 

How to determine if your child has a food allergy—and five tips for coping with it

Food is meant to help your child grow strong and healthy. It’s meant to fuel a body to play, learn and explore. But what if some foods were not doing those things and instead were making your child sick—and putting him or her in danger?

That’s what happens with food allergies, and unfortunately they’re on the rise. Cases of peanut allergies have more than tripled between 1997 and 2008, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and researchers aren’t sure why.

Peanuts, Milk and Soy. Oh, My!

Peanuts aren’t the only food that causes allergic reaction in some kids. The top eight culprits, which make up about 90 percent of food allergens, are milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and wheat.

About 3 million children in the U.S. live with food allergies. The good news is that food allergies aren’t always permanent. Most kids will outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, soy and wheat by age 10. But allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are more often something they will have their whole lives.

Signs and Symptoms

Food allergies are different from food intolerances, which are difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of food intolerances generally show up about a half-hour after eating the trigger food and include nausea, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Food allergy symptoms, on the other hand, can appear just minutes after the allergen food is ingested, or up to two hours later.

Signs, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, include:

  • A tingling sensation in the mouth
  • Swelling of the tongue and throat
  • Rash
  • Eczema
  • Hives and swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness