Does My Child Have a Food Allergy or Sensitivity (and what’s the difference)?


The gastrointestinal tract is uniquely suited to digest all the different foods we eat to help our children grow and thrive. However, there are times when the body reacts to certain foods and cause discomfort.

 A food allergy occurs when the body sees food as harmful and the immune system reacts to the allergens. When the response involves antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), symptoms such as hives, trouble breathing, or vomiting can appear quickly. Other times, non-IgE mediated allergies may cause symptoms such as abdominal pain or diarrhea that are delayed up to three days. The most common food allergens in children include milk, soy, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.

 A food intolerance or food sensitivity occurs when the body has trouble digesting certain foods, but the immune system is not involved. A common example is lactose intolerance where the intestinal enzymes cannot completely process the ingested milk sugar. Food intolerance can lead to similar symptoms as food allergies, but the reactions tend to be less severe.

In many cases, treatment of allergies and intolerances involves removing certain foods from the diet. However, overly restricting a child’s diet could have a negative impact on their nutrition and growth. In certain situations, medications may be useful as well. Your child’s pediatrician or pediatric gastroenterologist can help guide you through the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

Picture retrieved April 30, 2016 from