Last week we finally received confirmation of what we had suspected for some time. My daughter has food intolerances. What did surprise us were the foods she was intolerant of. There were two of them. One I had pretty much figured out but the other, wheat, both surprised and terrified me.
Finding out your child has a food allergy or intolerance can conjure up many emotions, relief, confusion and fear could be amongst them. For me I was relieved to have this information so I was able to start helping her, I was also relieved it wasn’t a more serious issue like an allergy. However I will also admit to feeling very scared of both the implications for my daughter and also the extra work for me. However the main thing I chose to focus on was the fact for many children the actual diagnosis of a food intolerance or allergy can be the first step to improved health for the child. I looked forward to seeing what positive impacts this change had on my daughter.
- Food allergies can have many different effects on children including a runny nose, an itchy skin rash, a tingling in the tongue, lips, or throat, swelling, abdominal pain or wheezing. The reactions can ranges from mild to severe or even life threatening. Children are most likely to develop a food allergy when they are under 5 years of age. Cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and fish account for more than 85% of food allergies in children. Nuts and seafood typically produce the most severe reactions and are also more likely to be the allergies that persist for life.
- A food intolerance has slightly different symptoms that can include burping, indigestion, gas, loose stools, headaches, nervousness, or a feeling of being “flushed.” While the symptoms of the intolerance are generally less severe, they can still have negatives impacts on the child’s health and wellbeing. Children with food intolerances may also present as irritable, restless or demonstrate behavioural problems such as defiance, exaggerated moodiness or even Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder like behaviour. For these reasons it is important to omit the food from the child’s diet.
At Little Miracles we understand the importance of having a safe environment for your children, in all areas. We have an extensive food allergy policy and we do all we can to minimise the risk of a child with an allergy being exposed to that food. In cases where there is a severe or life threatening allergy we work with the family to ensure the best outcome for them and the centre as a whole.
In day to day life it is important to do what you can to protect your children. For younger children this will mean keeping the food away from them. For older children it is appropriate to talk to them about the issue, explain the consequences of what will happen if they do eat these foods. You might be surprised by the level of comprehension your child has and their willingness to comply to the new rules. My 3 year old already understands that certain foods can make her sick and not to eat them – even tempting birthday cakes! In the case of life threatening allergies it is still probably prudent to keep the foods away from the child. To ease this transition it can also be a good idea to bake or buy some allergy free alternatives to help them still feel included, as a keen baker I saw this as an opportunity and included my child in the testing of new recipes. Through this process we have tried many weird and wonderful foods and have come up with some great finds. Here are some useful resources for cooking with food allergies.
If you suspect your child might have a food allergy we recommend speaking with your child’s doctor. They will also be able to refer you to a dietician if this should become necessary.