Food allergies and sensitivities can occur at any time, and while we hope that early introduction as a baby will help prevent some of these, we still want to make sure you have all the information you need in case your child begins to show sign of a possible food allergy or sensitivity.
Before the Diagnosis
Do not diagnose a food allergy on your own. Self-diagnosis can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and inadequate nutrition, especially in children. An allergist will take a thorough medical history, asking questions about overall health and eating habits to determine if food allergy may be causing your child’s symptoms and to identify the culprit food(s). The allergist will also perform a physical exam. Keeping a food and symptom journal prior to your visit can be a helpful tool to assist the doctor in establishing your child’s medical history.
The allergist may decide that further testing is needed before a diagnosis can be made.
After the Diagnosis
There’s no approved treatment to prevent food allergy reactions, so allergy management requires strict avoidance of the problem food. Young children are messy eaters, and infants are eager to explore everything they encounter with their mouths, making staple foods like cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt especially hard to avoid.
Taking care of yourself
The constant vigilance needed to manage a young child’s food allergy takes a mental, emotional and even physical toll on parents. More than 90 percent of food allergy centers in the FARE Clinical Network report treating patients whose parents suffer from anxiety related to their child’s allergies. And compared to mothers whose young children do not have food allergies, mothers of food-allergic children under age 5 have higher blood pressures and report greater stress. If you’re a parent or caregiver who’s experiencing food allergy stress, it’s important to take care of yourself, too.