Food Allergens Explained
Across the centuries, allergies in babies has been a very controversial topic. Some say that all babies are allergic to everything dairy, while others say that they are allergic to anything that comes from the Sea; but what do we actually know about allergies?
Food allergies are a result of a relation between certain food components to a person’s body, commonly the protein in natural foods, which triggers a hypersensitivity reaction also known as an allergic reaction. The body treats viruses or bacteria as “threats” and immediately attacks them, causing it to sometimes misread the allergic reaction as something dangerous and goes into defense mode by trying to get it out of the system through coughing, vomiting, etc.. In this article, you will learn about the symptoms, which food can trigger allergies in babies and how to safely test for them.
Food allergies are very common, however, they are very subjective and cannot be generalized among children. While food allergies are partially genetic, environmental factors also have a huge impact, which proves the fact that each child has different reactions to commonly allergenic foods such as dairy and nuts.
Food allergy symptoms are usually very mild and easy to detect, and usually start to appear as quick as one minute, but may also be delayed up to 2 hours after the exposure.
Symptoms may be as gentle as:
- Runny or blocked nose
- Red, itchy or watery eyes,
- Wheezing and coughing
Or may be as severe as:
- Skin swelling
- Trouble breathing
There are antibodies called immunoglobulin “IgE” which can only be found in mammals and their main function is to handle allergic reactions. These antibodies are attached to special cells called “Mast Cells”. When allergens enter the body of an allergic person, they attach to the IgE antibodies which causes the Mast Cells to release histamine and other chemicals causing an allergic reaction.
There are some diagnostic tests that you could get done to find out if your baby has “IgE” antibodies for commonly allergenic food:
The Skin Test - which is the most common allergy test, is applied by placing a small amount of diluted allergen on the skin. If the area starts to get red or has small bumps appearing on it within 15 minutes, then the person is allergic.
Blood Tests - are resorted to when the skin test is not suitable, if one has a certain skin condition or former history of allergic reactions. They cost more and usually take more time than the skin tests.
The Food Challenge Test - is basically testing out allergenic food orally, they are usually done to detect the severity of the condition as skin and blood tests only state whether there is an allergy or not, by giving the person very small amounts of the suspected food to control the reaction.
How to test for allergies
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no relation between delaying the introduction of allergenic food and preventing the allergy from happening. On the contrary, it is most likely going to increase the risk of it occurring.
It is recommended for infants till 6 months to only be receiving breastfed or formula milk and in case of breastfeeding, the mother should avoid consuming allergenic food. It is important to be aware of any severe genetic diseases such as eczema or asthma so as the infant passes 6 months, you can start introducing solid foods slowly within their diet to give them the needed nutrients without worrying. You can also start introducing allergenic food at the same time by giving them very small amounts and watching them closely to identify if they are exhibiting any of the symptoms stated above.
Most common allergenic food:
- Tree Nuts
- Foods that contain gluten, including wheat.
Allergies in a nutshell
Food allergies are very common nowadays and most people are aware of them, however, if you are having someone watch your child while you’re away it is important to clearly state what your child can and cannot have to avoid unnecessary commotion.
Once you’ve recognized your little one’s allergies, make sure to always read food labels carefully and familiarize yourself with the alternative names of allergenic food. To ensure their safety and avoid hassle, always keep snacks in your bag whenever you’re in public.
Last but not least, it is crucial to learn when to seek medical advice, reading informative content online is necessary and useful to learn about topics in general but before trying anything you read online, you need to consult with your pediatrician.