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Diagnosing food allergy in children

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Allergy to milk is common in young children Allergy to milk is common in young children

Food allergy arises as a result of an adverse immune response to food. This may be immunoglobulin E (IgE) or non-IgE-mediated. However, some allergic reactions to food involve a mixture of IgE and non-IgE responses.1

Food allergy is distinct from food intolerance which does not have an immunological basis. For example, food intolerance may arise from an enzyme deficiency.

Most food allergy can be diagnosed and managed in primary care. However, NICE advises that if there is diagnostic uncertainty or severe symptoms, then it is important to consider referring to secondary care.1 The healthcare professional needs to take into account the views of the child, if appropriate, as well as the parents.1

Food allergies in young children are usually caused by milk, egg, peanut and tree nuts.2 Peanut allergy tends to persist in later life, whereas milk and egg allergies tend to resolve.2

Children with atopic disease are more likely to present with symptoms of food allergy when compared to those without atopic disease.2


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