What are Food Allergies?

What are food allergies? Although they have been a hot topic in the media lately, not many people can tell you exactly what a food allergy is.

It seems that everywhere we turn we hear about nut free schools, the dangers of wheat, or the increased incidence of corn allergy.

Despite all this talk and fear of food allergies, most people don’t know or understand exactly what they are.

What are food allergies?

Food allergies happen when your child’s body mistakes a safe food for a dangerous outsider. It goes under attack by producing IgE antibodies in the body in an attempt to protect the body. The IgE antibodies then trigger mast cells to release chemicals into the blood.

One of these chemicals is histamine. Histamine is responsible for allergic reactions and symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, throat closing and gastrointestinal upset.

boy eating porridge http://www.flickr.com/photos/fmsc/8429658881/

It is important to realize once these antibodies are made they will be triggered every time your child eats the offending food, and many times the reaction will get worse with frequent exposure. That’s why it’s so important you make sure your child avoids the food he’s allergic to and all foods that may contain that food as an ingredient.

On the other hand, many children will grow out of their food allergies by the age of 5. This is why it's important to repeatedly get retested or do a food challenge with a medical professional.

If you suspect your child may have food allergies, you should take him to get tested to confirm.

It’s also important to consider food allergy testing if your child has general symptoms that don’t seem to go away or that seem to have nothing to do with a food. The best idea is to document exactly what your child is eating, how much and at what time. Also write down what his symptoms are and at what time he gets those. A food symptom diary like this can help doctors concentrate on a few possible offending foods and see if it may be a delayed allergic reaction.

There are many great books on food allergies available if you have additional questions or need more information.