Food allergies often show up during childhood, leaving many parents to wonder whether their kids will have to deal with this condition for the rest of their lives? Most food allergies, such as those to milk, eggs, wheat, soy, dairy, and peanuts, show up before a child’s second birthday.
It is expected that about 80 percent of allergies to milk, egg, soy, and wheat will be outgrown, along with about 20 percent of those with life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies. While these allergies may not last a lifetime, it can be difficult to tell when kids may have become less sensitive with their allergen.
The treatment is usually avoidance, meaning that those with severe allergies must read the label of everything they consume to make sure they do not accidentally ingest an allergen. As those with food allergies grow older, it becomes more likely that they may have aged out of the allergy, although doctors do not yet know what causes some children to age out of allergies while others remain allergic.
It can be difficult to tell when and how often they can eat the allergen, without risking an allergic reaction in the process. If a child appears to become less allergic over time, their doctor may give them a “food challenge” test, which involves testing the child’s reaction to small amounts of the allergen. Yet even this carefully controlled test can be anxiety-inducing for parents who are accustomed to avoiding anything containing their child’s allergen.
If allergen tests do show that a child has outgrown his or her allergies, parents often remain fearful of allowing their child to eat a food that previously could have caused a life-threatening allergic reaction. Two years after outgrowing her peanut allergy, Holly Sweenie finally brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school for lunch. “It took me a long time to get up the courage to pack one,” said her mother. Still, doctors recommend that children who have passed an allergy test carry an epinephrine auto-injector for at least a year, in case they do experience an allergic reaction.