Food allergies vs. respiratory allergies

If someone tells you they have allergies, what usually comes to mind? Maybe sneezing, sniffling, or puffy eyes? Those are common signs of respiratory allergies, but if you have food allergies, there’s a totally different set of reactions to look out for.

If your child has allergies, their triggers and symptoms will vary depending on what type of allergies they have.

Environmental allergies

While food allergies are triggered by certain proteins in food, environmental allergies are triggered by a wide range of stimulants, and often involve respiratory symptoms. If your child is allergic to, and breathes in, pollen, mold spores, dust mites, or pet hair or dander, it will probably cause an allergic reaction. This condition is also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever.

Common symptoms of an environmental allergic reaction include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes, mouth, or skin
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue

Some people experience these symptoms all year, and others have seasonal allergies that only trigger a reaction in the spring, summer, or fall.

Treatments for environmental allergies include decongestants, antihistamines, and allergy shots. Prescription medication and allergy shots are often the best forms of treatment for people with year-round allergies. If your child has seasonal allergies, you might be able to just give them allergy medication when their problem season rolls around.

Another way to reduce symptoms is to avoid the situations where your toddler is likely to have an allergic reaction. You can’t exactly keep him from going outside, but you can make sure to close the windows in your home, wash bedding frequently, use mite-proof bed and pillow covers, and use a dehumidifier to fight mold.

Food allergies

Allergies to food are often easier to avoid than environmental allergies, but they can also be more dangerous. When your body identifies a food as a harmful substance, it triggers an allergic reaction. This could be anything from hives and coughing to anaphylaxis, which is a serious reaction characterized by vomiting, difficulty breathing, and shock.

Common reactions to food allergies include:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Tongue swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

Other, potentially more serious symptoms include vomiting, trouble swallowing, blue or pale skin, weak pulse, or anaphylaxis.

The best way to manage food allergies is to avoid the foods you’re allergic to, but it’s not always as simple as that. For example, even if something doesn’t have peanuts as an ingredient, it could be prepared in a place where peanuts are handled, making contamination possible.

Teach your child to avoid foods he is allergic to, and if he has a severe allergy, tell him not to eat anything he isn&;t sure about.

If the allergen is something difficult to avoid in everyday foods, consider working with a dietician, pediatrician, or family doctor to come up with a nutrition plan.

  • “Allergies.” American College of Allergy, Asthma & ImmunologyAmerican College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2014. Web.
  • “Allergy Facts and Figures.” AAFA. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. 2016. Web.
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