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The Kid’s Doctor: Parents, children should know food allergy symptoms

I often get calls or see a patient for an office visit with a parent concerned that their child may have “reacted” to something they ate.

The body’s immune system is efficient in trying to fight off bacteria and viruses, but at times it seems to “get confused” and will develop antibodies – immunoglobulin E to be exact – to a protein in food. This may occur the first time you’re exposed to the food or at any time in life.

The immune reaction is a complicated series of events beginning with a histamine response, which then triggers other chemicals in the body, as well, which then cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. These symptoms may be as mild as sneezing or itchy areas on the skin to severe symptoms including swelling of face, lips or tongue, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing with wheezing and shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting. A severe reaction is called anaphylaxis and is a life-threatening event.

While some children may not yet be verbal when they’re first exposed to a food, they may show signs of an allergic reaction by coughing, vomiting, pulling at their tongue or grabbing their neck. Parents need to be aware of such symptoms.

Submit questions to Dr. Sue Hubbard at