What You Need to Know About Food Allergies in Kids

An expert offers information on food allergies in kids including what you should know about the rising numbers and what you can do for your little.

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Photo of Dr. Devang Doshi

As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about during the toddler stage, allergies – both food and environmental – have become an increasingly common concern.

Parents are itching for advice on all things food allergies, so we asked an expert, Dr. Devang Doshi, for the 411:

How prevalent are allergies in toddlers?

Allergies among toddlers are becoming more clinically observed in all developed countries around the world. This could be attributed to an increase in general prevalence rates as well as better recognition among clinicians and parents.

What are the most common toddler allergies?

In terms of food, there is a top eight allergen list which includes cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. We’ve also observed a significant increase in the prevalence of sesame seed allergies among children. The most prevalent environmental allergens for toddlers include pet dander and dust mites.

Are allergies inherited?

Many types of allergic disorders are inherited, but many are also acquired over time based on exposure. We do see an increased prevalence rate of allergic tendencies among patients with family members who have significant seasonal allergies.

How can a parent figure out what a child is allergic to?

It is important for parents to monitor their child and document any suspected allergies or reactions. This should be discussed with their primary care physician, who can determine if a referral to an allergist for further evaluation, as well as specific testing, is necessary.

Many parents want to try natural remedies (essential oils, honey, elderberry) to kick allergies. Are they worth a try?

Natural remedies are an option to try if there is a perceived benefit in the child’s symptoms. Nevertheless, many individuals with significant allergies often require medication in addition to natural remedies. Parents must also consider other conditions, such as asthma, which may be aggravated by the use of natural remedies like essential oils. Honey should not be used for children under the age of 1.

What are some healthy habits parents can practice with their children to curb allergies?

Over the last few years, the general recommendations globally have been to promote the early introduction of all foods without restriction as appropriate per the child’s age. The line of thinking behind this recommendation is that this may decrease the overall prevalence rates for children to develop food allergies. Breastfeeding is also considered beneficial for overall health benefits to a newborn as well as a well-balanced diet as they get older.

The million-dollar question: food allergies seem to be more common in toddlers than ever. What’s changed from generation to generation that may be causing an increase?

One popular theory is the “Hygiene Hypothesis,” which suggests that advances in healthcare and technology have created a cleaner lifestyle, potentially skewing our immune predisposition to allergies. Other theories include prior restrictions in dietary advances among infants, the globalization of foods, and population migration patterns to developed nations.

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