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Food allergies - for children

reaction; histamine; antibody; allergen; allergy; itch; hives; skin; rash; hive; food; peanut; antihistamine; wheeze ;


Sometimes proteins in some foods can cause allergic reactions. The reaction happens soon after you have had that food, usually within 2 hours. Sometimes you and your doctor can find out what you are reacting to with allergy testing.

Most common food allergies for children 

  • Cow's milk. Sorry but this could also mean you react to cream, cheese, ice cream and even chocolate!
  • fruitEggs (maybe cakes and biscuits too)
  • Peanuts and other tree nuts
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Soy beans, soy milk, soy flour
  • Wheat (bread, cakes, biscuits)
  • Some berry fruits like strawberries
  • Gluten - a protein found in cereals like wheat, barley, rye and oats.

Food poisoning is not an allergy. Food poisoning is caused by germs in food.

What happens if you are allergic to some foods?

  • You may get a rash around your mouth where food has touched your skin.
  • You could get hives (an itchy rash on other parts of your body).
  • You could feel really sick and vomit (throw up).
  • You could swell up inside your mouth or throat, making it hard to swallow or breathe.
  • You could get really wheezy.

Sounds pretty awful doesn't it?

Why do people get food allergies?

Your body has an immune system.

  • This system makes antibodies to fight off germs which get into your body.
  • Sometimes the immune system makes a mistake, and thinks that something you have eaten could harm you.
  • Antibodies go into action and release a chemical called histamine which is what causes the allergic reaction.

People are more likely to have allergic reactions to food if other people in their family also have allergic reactions.

What you can do

  • Tell you mum or dad, or another adult what is happening.
  • Be 'cool'. If you are throwing up don't get scared. Your body is just throwing out what is upsetting it and you will soon feel much better.
  • Get cool. Use a cool cloth on your face to cool you down and make you feel better.
  • Stay cool. Getting hot and upset may make you feel worse.
  • Tell the nearest adult if you are feeling wheezy. You may need some special treatment.
  • Rest for a while.
  • Try a sip of water to rinse out your mouth. Don't try anything fizzy or eat anything just yet, until your tummy has settled down.
  • Enjoy a bit of extra attention from mum or dad or whoever looks after you!
  • If you have a rash, cool it down (see our topic "Skin problems - rashes").
  • If you don't feel better, mum or dad may ring up the health centre or take you to see the doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor about what you ate before the reaction. Your doctor might advise you to avoid some foods in the future.

Some people can have such a severe reaction to some foods, such as peanuts, that they need immediate medical help. If you are having problems breathing and your face and neck are swelling then your closest adult should call an ambulance. Have a look at the topic 'Anaphylaxis - when an allergy can be really dangerous' to learn more.

What to do in future

germ Avoid the foods that make you feel ill.

Read food labels to check for your triggers such as peanuts, then don't eat that food if it contains them.

Dr Kim says:

Dr Kim

If you keep getting allergic reactions that might be caused by food, see your doctor and together you may be able to work out what is causing the problem.

 You may need to be a detective and look for clues to solve this problem.


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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