What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a type of allergic reaction which affects the whole body and can be life-threatening. Thankfully, it is very rare; however, if it occurs it requires immediate medical treatment, which is why all allergies should be taken seriously.
Anaphylaxis usually occurs within a few minutes of exposure to the allergen, but can take a few hours to develop. The symptoms vary, but might include skin redness, urticaria (hives) appearing on the body, itching or swelling in the mouth and throat, difficulty in swallowing or speaking, a rapid heartbeat, wheezing or worsening of asthma, feeling sick or vomiting, a drop in blood pressure (the person may feel weak or fall down) and unconsciousness.
If you believe that your child may be experiencing anaphylaxis, then you need to immediately seek medical advice by calling 999 and following their instructions. Usually anaphylaxis is treated with injectable adrenaline (an EpiPen), and some people who have had anaphylaxis in the past carry this with them just in case.
What should I do if I think my child has an allergy/intolerance?
If you suspect that your child may have an abnormal reaction to a food, it's important to discuss it with your GP. Sometimes what looks like an allergy or an intolerance might be something different, so you don’t want to take things out of your child’s diet until you're certain of the cause.
If the symptoms were obviously related to one specific food (for example, an egg) then it may be wise to avoid giving your child egg until you have a chance to speak to the GP. Even if you do this and the symptoms stop, you should still book an appointment to see your GP so you can have your concerns confirmed and properly diagnosed.
It may help you to write down what your child ate and exactly what happened so that you don’t forget anything which may be important when you see your doctor; this will also help them to make the right diagnosis.
What sorts of foods are likely to trigger an allergy?
Any food containing protein has the potential to trigger an allergy; however, there some are more common culprits than others, including peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, cow’s milk, eggs, soya and wheat.
What sorts of foods are likely to cause intolerance?
We don't really know what makes a food likely to cause intolerance; however, lactose, a milk sugar, is the most common offender. Lactose-intolerant people produce less of the enzyme the body needs to break down lactose, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms.