Home > Healthy Eating Tips > Nutrition and Allergies

Nutrition and Allergies

By: Elizabeth Hinds - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Nutrition Allergies Immune System Kids

If you are concerned that your child may have a food allergy or food intolerance go and see your doctor or health visitor before cutting out any foods. That’s the most important advice we can give you for your kids. Good nutrition is vital for children’s health and development and any major changes need to be carefully monitored.

First of all let us reassure you by saying that food allergy is comparatively rare in children, and babies who have an allergic reaction may well grow out of it by the time they’re reached 4 or 5. Food allergies – or other allergies – seem to run in families though so if you are allergic to milk or peanuts or if you suffer from eczema or hay fever, it’s possible, but not definite, that your child will also.

What is Food Allergy?

A food allergy is a body’s reaction to a specific food. The body’s immune system views that food as harmful and overreacts to it by producing antibodies. When too many of these antibodies are produced, they affect the body’s own tissues and can cause rashes, inflammation or other symptoms.

Each time the food is eaten the immune system reacts by producing even more antibodies so the symptoms can get worse.

In severe – and very rare – cases, a tiny amount of the food can cause anaphylactic shock (breathing and heart problems). Immediate treatment is needed. (See Dealing with an allergy)

What is Food Intolerance?

Food intolerance could appear to be an allergy because the symptoms can be the same. Eating even a small quantity of a specific food will cause a reaction if the child is intolerant. But, unlike an allergy, food intolerance is not caused by the body’s immune system. Its exact cause is not known but it is usually limited to the digestive system. It may cause mild or severe vomiting or diarrhoea but is unlikely to be life-threatening.

Most Common Allergens in Children

An allergen is the food that causes a reaction.

  • Milk
  • Soya
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

Typical Symptoms of Food Allergy

These can occur immediately or happen up to several hours later.

  • Swelling of lips or throat
  • Rash
  • Runny nose and streaming eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Eczema
  • Asthma

What To Do if You Suspect Your Child Has a Food Allergy

If you suspect your child has developed a food allergy, visit the doctor. Even if it seems very obvious e.g. each time your child eats an egg, he immediately gets covered in spots, talk to your doctor or health visitor before cutting out the offending food. It’s even more important to the child’s healthy nutrition if the allergen appears to be milk.

Your doctor will decide if the symptoms warrant further tests being carried out. These may include blood and skin tests. Do-it-yourself kits are not recommended, especially for children, whose development and growth is reliant on good healthy balanced nutrition.

Alternatively you may be advised to keep a nutrition diary, recording all the food your child has eaten for a week or two and any reactions. It might be helpful to have done this and to take it with you on your first visit to the doctor.

Dealing with an Allergy

Food allergies cannot be cured and drugs will only relieve the symptoms. If an allergen is confirmed, the simplest way to avoid a reaction in your child is to make sure she doesn’t eat the allergen. That’s easier said than done we know, but you can do it!

  • There are special baby milk formulas available for babies allergic to milk or soya. Your health visitor will be able to give you more information.
  • Make sure your child’s school is aware of the allergy.
  • If your child going out to tea with a friend, tell the mum – or whoever will be providing tea – well in advance, about the allergy and any restrictions.
  • Drill it into your child that he mustn’t eat that particular food; this will become easier as he gets older and learns to associate it with sickness or other symptoms.
  • Also, as your child develops, teach him to always read packet labels looking for hidden ingredients.
  • If she has one, make sure your child always carries her *adrenaline auto-injector pen with her, and ensure that her teachers or carers know how to use it.
*An adrenaline auto-injector pen allows a single dose of adrenaline to be easily injected into the body helping to relieve an extreme and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction by easing breathing and blood pressure. They are prescribed by the doctor.


Don’t panic! If your baby has an allergy, he may grow out of it; even if he doesn’t, it’s possible to deal with it. We know that when it’s your baby, these things can seem like the end of the world, but with a little extra planning, your family life can go on as normal and your child will grow into a beautiful well-developed adult.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: