Navigating Childhood Food Allergies

17 January, 2024

Navigating childhood food allergies
Food allergies can have serious consequences. Our educators are guided by expert medical advice to keep your children safe while they’re in our care.

Food allergies are common in children – and they’re increasing. There’s no way to tell whether your child will develop an allergy (although a sibling with an allergy can slightly increase the risk) and no known ways to stop allergies developing. As children try new foods and flavours, it’s important to be aware of the signs of allergic reactions to food and to seek medical advice if you are concerned.

What are food allergies?

Food allergies are an immune response. The body detects a protein in a food and responds to it as if it were toxic. Food allergies can cause responses from mild signs of allergic reactions to severe allergic responses, known as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

Allergy vs intolerance
– what’s the difference?

Food allergies and food intolerances are often confused as they can have similar symptoms. Food intolerances are a chemical reaction in the body caused by some foods. They are not life-threatening.

Signs of allergic reactions usually occur straight after eating, while symptoms of food intolerance may occur quickly or develop over 12-24 hours. It is important to seek medical advice to determine whether a food allergy exists because they can be life-threatening.

Most common allergies in children

Cow’s milk is often touted as the most common allergy in children.

Other common child allergies include:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat and Soy

Signs of allergic reactions in children

Common signs of allergic reactions include, but are not limited to:

  • Skin reactions (hives, swelling, rashes);
  • Gastrointestinal (nausea, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, itchiness or swelling);
  • Respiratory (wheezing, sneezing, or runny nose), and;
  • Cardiovascular (dizziness, pale skin, confusion, fainting). 

Food allergy diagnosis

It is important to speak to your doctor if you suspect your child may have a food allergy. There are evidence-based medical tests that detect food allergies, including skin prick testing and blood tests. Alternatively, your doctor may suggest keeping a food diary and recording possible signs of allergic reactions to detect any patterns.

Managing food allergies

After a formal diagnosis, a medical professional will advise parents how to support their children to manage their allergy. Each child should have a response tailored to their individual needs. This may include:

  • Avoiding the food (including being aware of how it may be described on food labels);
  • Teaching your child not to share food with other children; 
  • Creating an ASCIA action plan (guided by the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy) for your child’s carers, and;
  • Obtaining adrenaline autoinjectors, such as EpiPens for emergencies.

Outgrowing food allergies in children 

As your child grows up, they may stop being allergic to a particular food.  

Support at Edge Early Learning 

It is vital Edge Early Learning are aware of children’s allergies. Educators and chefs will refer to the child’s ASCIA action plan to help prevent allergic reactions and to respond to emergencies. 

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