Food allergy symptoms generally will develop within minutes to hours after ingestion of an allergic food and can involve the skin, lungs, stomach, and/or heart. Food allergy reactions can potentially be life-threatening so all reactions should be taken seriously. Food allergies can be diagnosed via skin testing, blood testing, and oral challenges; however, random testing to a multitude of foods to determine which ones a particular person is allergic is not warranted or recommended. A detailed history and evaluation by an allergist will help to determine which foods to consider testing. After diagnosis, a detailed food action plan should be developed with the patient and/or parent and the allergist. This action plan should include education on avoidance of the allergic food and treatment strategies for any potential accidental ingestion. A nutritionist can be consulted to assist with recommendations for substitution of foods so that nutritional requirements are met.
The good news is that the majority of the classic foods involved in food allergies are often outgrown. This can be confirmed by additional skin/blood testing and oral food challenges. Some allergies can persist into adulthood and can be life-long. There are some experimental treatment options undergoing study, but unfortunately there is no treatment available today that will cure food allergies. The only option currently recommended is strict food avoidance with careful reading of food labels and prevention of accidental ingestion.
Recommendations on the avoidance of certain foods to prevent the development of food allergies have changed over the last few decades. Given the conflicting data and the onslaught of information found on the Internet, it can be very challenging to determine what the appropriate course of action is for a child with possible food allergies. Consultation with a board certified allergist could help to diagnose, educate, and manage food allergies.