Food allergy symptoms are most common in babies and children, but they can appear at any age. You can even develop an allergy to foods you have eaten for years with no problems. Learn more about the types of food allergies.
Milk allergy and intolerance
Cow’s milk allergy is one of the most common in children, and these children may also suffer from allergies to other foods such as soya, goat’s milk or egg. They may also suffer from asthma or eczema. A child may be allergic to either of the milk proteins casein or whey, or both. Whey proteins are damaged by heat, so those sensitive to the whey may be able to tolerate heat-treated (long-life) milk or milk powder. Lactose intolerance occurs when lactose (milk sugar) cannot be digested because the enzyme that helps to digest it is lacking in the body. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach pain, gas and vomiting. Often yogurt and cottage cheese can be tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
Approximately 2.5 percent of children younger than three years of age are allergic to milk. Nearly all infants who develop an allergy to milk do so in their first year of life. Most children eventually outgrow a milk allergy. The allergy is most likely to persist in children who have high levels of cow’s milk antibodies in their blood. Blood tests that measure these antibodies can help your allergist determine whether or not a child is likely to outgrow a milk allergy.
Avoidance of milk or items containing milk products is the only way to manage a milk allergy. People who are allergic to milk and the parents of children who have this allergy must read ingredient labels very carefully.
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Wheat allergy is a reaction to the proteins in wheat. Symptoms include eczema, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, asthma and sneezing/watery nose. While the symptoms of a wheat allergy are usually mild, in some cases they may be severe and can be deadly, making a diagnosis and appropriate management of the allergy imperative.
Wheat allergy is most common in children; about two-thirds of them outgrow it at a relatively young age.
Treatment is avoidance of wheat products such as bread, biscuits, muffins and cakes. Starches that can be eaten are rye bread, barley, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice and maize meal, and the flours from these starches.
Gluten allergy is more severe and all wheat products, as well as rye, barley and oats need to be avoided. Oats is naturally gluten free, but is in danger of cross contamination via their processing. Therefore, be on the lookout for certified gluten-free oats.
Starches that can be eaten include potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, rice noodles and maize meal. Many gluten-free breads and pastas are available in select stores. Since so many foods need to be avoided, visit a dietitian to help you with an eating plan and understanding food labels.
Symptoms that you or your child may be suffering from a gluten allergy:
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea and even constipation.
- Keratosis Pilaris, (also known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms). This tends be as a result of a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat-malabsorption caused by gluten damaging the gut.
- Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten.
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma or multiple sclerosis.
- Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.
- Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.
- Migraine headaches.
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses simply indicate your conventional doctor cannot pin point the cause of your fatigue or pain.
- Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.
- Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADHD.
An allergy to tree nuts is one of the most common food allergies. It is also one of the food allergens most frequently linked to anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and can send the body into shock.
Symptoms of a tree nut allergy include:
- Abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
- Itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin or any other area
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Anaphylaxis (less common)
The most severe (life-threatening) is the peanut allergy. Peanuts are widely used in baked products, cereals, Chinese and Thai dishes, crackers, health bars, ice creams and obviously, peanut butter and peanut oil. Always check labels for the use of nuts. Even if a food does not have peanuts in it, but has come into contact with nuts, it may cause a reaction to an allergic person. For this reason, many products are labeled ‘may contain traces of nuts’ or ‘produced in a factory that uses nuts’.
Egg allergies are more common in infants and children than adults. The reaction mostly occurs to the egg white proteins (albumin and ovomucid). Symptoms include eczema and other skin problems. It is important that egg only be introduced to infants from 10 months of age. Food which contain egg include: mayonnaise, salad cream/dressings, meringues, marshmallows, baked products, processed meats, crumbed food and food with a batter. Pies and pastries are often coated on top with egg.
Experts estimate that as many as 2 percent of children are allergic to eggs. Fortunately, studies show that about 70 percent of children with an egg allergy will outgrow the condition by age 16.