What are Food Allergies?

Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts to food proteins as though they are invasive substances. Food allergies can be IgE-mediated or non-IgE-mediated. The most common childhood food allergies in children include but are not limited to, milk, eggs, soy, and peanuts and tree nuts— and they are usually IgE-mediated food allergies although milk food allergies can be both IgE or non-IgE-mediated. IgE-mediated food allergies are the result of allergen-specific immunoglobulin E antibodies reacting to food proteins as though the proteins are invaders; symptoms show up quickly, as early as within minutes.

IgE-Mediated Food Allergy Signs & Symptoms

Allergic reaction to foods like milk, egg, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts presents similarly to each other and other allergic reactions:

  • Agitated mood, irritability, lethargy

  • Coughing and/or wheezing

  • Difficulty breathing, including shortness or breath or increased breath

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, including cramping, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea

  • Mouth and tongue itchiness and/or tongue and/or lip swelling

  • Skin hives, welts, blotches, and/or swelling

  • Stuffy or runny nose And in some severe cases

  • Throat tightness, hoarse voice, and/or difficulty making sounds

Severe allergy may lead to a drop in blood pressure and passing out or anaphylaxis—which requires immediate emergency treatment.

How To Manage Food Allergy

The best way to manage any allergy is to avoid the culprit allergen. This isn’t always practical or possible, and egg, soy, and nuts are ingredients in several foods you wouldn’t think to consider or handed in the same food processing plants. Learning how to treat a reaction is just as important as trying to cut out food allergens altogether.

Work with your child’s pediatrician to confirm a food allergy and to develop a plan of action for reaction.

Tips & Tricks for Avoiding Eggs, Soy, and Peanuts and Tree Nuts

Keeping products containing food allergens away from your toddler takes a bit more work than not brining home a carton of Grade-A eggs or a jar of peanut butter from the store:

  • Check every label, every time. You might be surprised at all the packaged foods that contain products related to these allergens—don’t assume you’re safe. Here are examples of ingredients that can be allergenic:

    • For eggs: egg white, egg yolk, powdered egg, dried/dehydrated egg, livetin, lysozyme, vitellin, mayonnaise, albumin, ovalbumin and ovomucoid.

    • For soy: anything that says soy or soya, most things that contain bean sprouts or soybean curd, supro, tempeh, tofu, hydrolyzed plant protein or hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

    • For peanuts and tree nuts: almost anything labeled “nut” (when it comes to tree nuts), anything that says arachis or arachic, beer nuts, ground nuts, goober peas, nutmeat, nougat, and pesto.

  • Avoid cross contamination. Whether preparing a meal at home or eating at a restaurant, do your best to prevent cross contamination in kitchen contexts. If your child has an egg allergy, avoid using egg when cooking for the family at home and let your server know about egg allergy when eating out.

  • Remove allergens from your diet if breastfeeding. If your little one has a food allergy and if you’re still breastfeeding or expressing breast milk, your little love may react to proteins passed via your milk. Better to leave them out of your diet. Do note, however, that if your toddler has no known food allergy there is no need to leave specific allergens out of your diet while you breastfeed or express breast milk if there is no other reason to do so.

  • Inform family, friends, and caretakers. Anyone who may feed, share food with, or care for your toddler needs to be informed about their allergy, including how to check food labels for products related to these allergens and how to treat your little one if they inadvertently do consume something containing these allergens.

Can a Toddler Outgrow a Food Allergy?

The good news is that some little ones outgrow their IgE-mediated food allergies over time. While it’s impossible to know if your toddler will be amongst this cohort, you can consider some of the reasons that may affect an allergy’s continuation:

  • Allergic reaction severity

  • Age of allergy onset

  • Concurrent health conditions, including asthma and eczema

While you’re waiting and watching to see if your toddler will outgrow their food allergy, you can explore replacement options for their allergens and other approaches to getting healthy proteins on the menu.

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