Does my child have a food allergy?

Dr. Steven Cox, DO, is a family medicine practitioner at Banner Health Center in Goodyear. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call Dr. Cox’s office at (623) 474-8101.

Question: My child ate some strawberries and I noticed a rash around her mouth later that day. Does this mean she is allergic to this fruit? Should she be tested for food allergies?

Answer: The rash you describe, which is called perioral contact dermatitis, is a very common food reaction. It is frequently seen after a person eats fruits or vegetables that are very acidic, such as strawberries, oranges and tomatoes. The best way to address this reaction, especially if the rash is moderate to severe, is to simply avoid the food in the future. However, if the rash is very mild and disappears quickly, you can probably continue to offer the food that caused it.

Your daughter’s reaction to strawberries is mostly likely a food intolerance, which can create a minor rash, bloating, nausea or diarrhea, but it is not an allergy. In the case of a food allergy, the person will have an actual immune response that causes symptoms such as swelling, wheezing, hives or a severe reaction called anaphylaxis that affects the entire body. These symptoms can arise in minutes or hours after a food is eaten.

With food intolerance, the body’s response to the food is not related to the immune system and is rarely life-threatening. Only about 5 percent of children suffer from food allergies, and testing is a useful tool to determine the foods and other allergens to which a child may be sensitive. Allergy testing is only necessary, however, if your child has reacted to something in a way that indicates an immune response.

The best approach to managing any food reactions is to talk with your doctor about any responses your child has had, so you can receive advice on any necessary dietary changes or testing.

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