allergies, food

Allergies to foods are fairly common in children and most often involve only one or two foods. The most common food allergens in younger children are

  • eggs
  • peanuts (ground nuts)
  • milk
  • fish
  • soy
  • wheat

For adolescents and young adults, add to the picture

  • walnuts
  • shellfish

Since most children with food allergy are actually only allergic to one or two foods, very restrictive food elimination diets are usually not necessary (and very difficult to implement as well). It is a good idea or parents to work with a pediatric allergist to determine which foods (if any) are actually causing allergic symptoms in their child.

Milk, egg and peanuts (that is to say "ground nuts" for our overseas readers) account for 85% of food allergies in children. Most children outgrow allergy to milk and eggs by 4 or 5 years old, but peanut allergy tends to be long term. About 60% of peanut-allergic children have further allergic reactions to the nuts, at an average rate of about one every three years. There is really no reliable way to predict the severity of future allergic reactions. IgE (allergy antibody) levels to peanuts do not predict the severity of allergic reactions. Peanut protein is found in many foods; 90% of American children have been exposed by age 2. Parents of peanut allergic children should keep a self-injectible epinephrine device available (Epi-Pen) at all times. 1

1. Journal of Pediatrics 2000; 137:741-743.

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