Food Allergy in Children

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is what happens when consuming certain foods trigger the body’s immune system, leading to allergic reactions that range from mild rash to severe life threatening conditions.

When this happens, the immune system erroneously treats the proteins in these foods as threats to the body, releasing chemicals that induce symptoms of an allergic reaction.

What causes Food Allergies in Kids?

Consuming allergens causes food allergies to develop. Symptoms of food allergies can start immediately while eating, or it can take several hours to days to show.

Common causes of food allergy in children include:

  • Eggs
  • Milk and other lactose-based products
  • Nuts (particularly peanuts and tree nuts)
  • Shellfish and other seafood
  • Wheat products
  • Soy products and soybeans

How do I know if my kids have a Food Allergy?

The symptoms of food allergy vary from each individual and can affect different parts of the body. These are some common symptoms:

  • Itchy eyes and/or skin
  • Atopic Dermatitis (eczema)
  • Red rashes or hives
  • Tingly and itchy throat or mouth
  • Wheezing and congestion of the nasal passages
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
  • Swelling in the face, mouth, throat, or other parts of the body
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sneezing (hay fever-like symptoms)

Are Food Allergies serious?

In some children, food allergies can also trigger a serious allergic reaction called Anaphylaxis. This requires urgent medical attention and should be recognized as soon as possible.
The symptoms for anaphylaxis include,

  • Tightening of airways – children may have a wheeze or hoarse cry
  • Swollen throat and difficulty breathing – children may have visible breathing difficulties babies can turn blue
  • Severe drop in blood pressure and rapid pulse – babies and children can be less responsive to stimuli

Some people can also develop exercise-induced food allergies. This is when symptoms of a food allergy, typically anaphylaxis, manifests after consuming a certain food followed by exercising or physical activity.

Is your child at risk of developing Food Allergy?

Children with the following are at a higher risk of food allergy,

  • Family or personal history of allergies (asthma, hives, hay fever, eczema)
  • Early onset of atopic dermatitis can lead to more allergies
  • Age (food allergies are more common in infants and toddlers)

How is Food Allergy diagnosed?

There are a number of factors and tests to diagnose food allergies. It may be diagnosed based on symptoms alone, or the dermatologist may suggest tests to determine the source (or sources) of allergy.

  • Skin prick test - A tiny amount of suspected food allergen is placed on your child’s skin, and then the doctor will prick the skin with a needle to enable the substance to enter the surface of the skin. If your child develops a bump or irritation, it indicates a food allergy.
  • Blood test - A blood sample can determine if your child has food allergies, by measuring the immune system’s response to certain foods and analysing immunoglobulin E (IgE), the allergy-related antibody.

What are the treatment options for Kids Food Allergy in Singapore?

Treatment options for food allergies in Singapore vary, as it depends on how severe the reactions are. Once the food allergy has been identified, you should avoid it to prevent further allergic reactions. It is important to check food labels and be aware of the ingredients in each meal.

These are some common treatment options for food allergy:

  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-inflammatory topical medications
  • Medication to treat gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Emergency epinephrine and hydrocortisone injections (for severe cases)


What’s the difference between food allergy and intolerance?
A food allergy directly triggers the immune system, where even small amounts of the allergen triggers symptoms which can be life-threatening. Food intolerance typically only affects the digestive system with less severe symptoms.
How long do food allergic reactions last?
It can take approximately 2-4 weeks for your allergic reaction to clear completely.
What do I do if I eat something I’m allergic to?
If you’ve eaten something you’re allergic too, quickly treat the symptoms and keep yourself hydrated. Seek immediate medical attention for severe symptoms.
What happens if you leave a food allergy untreated?
Untreated food allergies can worsen, and reactions can become more severe over time. Prolonged allergic reactions also weaken your immune system and can lead to more infections.



Dr Uma Alagappan is a MOH accredited consultant dermatologist in private with more than 15 years experience as a medical doctor. She sub-specialises in paediatric dermatology, women’s dermatology and general dermatology. Dr Uma’s interests include chronic eczema, food allergy and immunodermatology. She is also well versed with the use of lasers for treating paediatric and adult patients.
Dr Uma completed her dermatology training in Changi General Hospital and National Skin Centre in 2015. She joined KKH Dermatology Service to subspecialize in paediatric dermatology in 2017. She was awarded the Ministry of Health Manpower Development Plan Award in 2019 to pursue paediatric immunodermatology and allergo-dermatology in the renowned Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts, USA. Upon her return, she spearheaded a number of clinics at KKH including the food allergy eczema clinic for the paediatric eczema patients, immunodermatology clinics and the psychology eczema multi-disciplinary clinics.
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