When your child has a physical reaction to a particular type of food, you would normally conclude that it’s due to a food allergy your child is having. However, your child may in fact be suffering from a food intolerance. Food allergies and food intolerances can be difficult to differentiate. They both are reactions to food, and they share some of the same signs and symptoms. That’s why you may confuse the two when identifying the signs and symptoms. For example, some of the shared symptoms between food allergies and food intolerance include nausea, stomach pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. Here’s an explanation of what is what, and what to do in either case.
Food intolerance is generally less serious than food allergies and is often limited to digestive problems. If your child has food intolerance, he or she may be able to take in small amounts of that offending food without much of a problem. Digestive problems may only happen when your child eats a lot of the offending food. Food intolerance doesn’t affect the body instantly, but gradually. In general, it is not life threatening, but can cause discomfort in the body, especially in the digestive system. Some symptoms of food intolerances include gas, bloating, irritability and nervousness.
Food allergies involve the immune system. When your child’s immune system mistakenly identifies a particular food as an invader it prompts the body to overreact and release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. It can affect the whole body, not just the digestive system. Generally, food allergies may cause more serious and severe reactions in the body. Some of the symptoms of food allergies include rash, hives or itchy skin, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing or breathing. If your child is having trouble swallowing or breathing, you should call emergency services immediately. Food allergies are commonly triggered by food such as peanuts, fish, milk, and eggs.
Treatment for Your Child
There are a few things you can do once you know what food causes a physical reaction in your child. First, you can keep a diary of the foods you eat and the symptoms your child has. From there, you can then plan your child’s meals without the offending foods. If you suspect your child has allergies, get your health professional to perform an allergy test.
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