Ask the expert: How can you tell if your child has a food allergy?
How can you tell if your child has a food allergy? What are the warning signs and can they be serious? Sophie Goodall asks an expert
Childhood food allergies are relatively common, with almost one in 12 youngsters affected - and figures are on the rise, according to charity Allergy UK.
But determining whether your child has an allergy - or perhaps an intolerance or other digestive problem - isn't always simple, particularly if symptoms are vague or sporadic.
Food allergy symptoms can vary but there are some tell-tale signs, such as 'a flushed face, hives, and a red and itchy rash around the mouth, tongue or eyes', which may spread across the rest of the body, as Allergy UK outlines.
And Dr Preethi Daniel, clinical director at London Doctors Clinic, points out: "Allergic reactions can be immediate or delayed. Immediate reactions tend to be - as the name suggests - immediate or fast. Usually, as soon as the culprit hits the body system or skin surface, a skin irritation might develop. The rash can look like red weals, or hives or spots, and can be very itchy.
"Other signs include mild sneezing or a runny nose, lip or tongue tingling or swelling, diarrhoea or vomiting, and difficulty breathing or wheezing. Delayed allergic reactions tend to manifest as eczema, poor weight gain, chronic diarrhoea or constipation."
When it comes to weaning, which may be the first time your child shows signs of a food allergy, Dr Daniel says: "It is generally recommended that 'high allergenic foods' - such as milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish and peanuts - can be introduced from six months of age, according to the Department of Health.
"They should be introduced one at a time with a gap of three days to monitor for reactions. A food and symptom diary is often useful to help identify allergens."
Dr Daniel stresses that if breathing difficulties/wheezing occur, this "is known as anaphylaxis and may be life-threatening". Other warning signs of anaphylaxis can include a swelling of the mouth, tongue and throat, a tight chest, dizziness and confusion and a drop in blood pressure. If any of these symptoms occur it's vital to seek urgent medical help and call 999.
Thankfully, most children with food allergies will not experience a life-threatening reaction. When they have occurred, your doctor will be able to help - and making other people aware of your child's allergy can be important.