August 14, 2019
Can Kids Outgrow Food Allergies?
“Your child has food allergies.” These words provide a family with much-needed answers while also sparking endless questions about what’s to come.
Chief among those is usually whether or not food allergies can be outgrown. If only this simple question had an equally simple answer!
Studies show that food allergies can be outgrown, but this comes with a number of caveats. The likelihood of outgrowing a food allergy relates to the onset and severity of the allergy, as well as the food causing the allergic reaction. Experts are unsure how or why the body stops overreacting to food that previously caused allergic symptoms (ranging from hives to wheezing and vomiting or even anaphylaxis).
Of the top eight food allergens – peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and cow’s milk – a child with egg, soy, wheat, or milk allergy is most likely to be declared allergy-free at a later date. No one can say with any certainty at what age their body will flip the switch and no longer have a reaction, but many will outgrow their allergy before they even start kindergarten. Others gradually outgrow them into their teens. Keep in mind, if they have more than one food allergy, one or more may completely fall off the radar while other allergies persist into adulthood.
Children diagnosed with food allergies on the milder end of the spectrum are more apt to outgrow them, as compared to those who have more severe reactions. Also, the younger a child was when symptoms first appeared, the more likely they are to eventually develop a tolerance for that food.
An allergist can offer resources that will help your family thrive as you embark on the food allergy journey. They will suggest a timeline for future allergy testing (often done annually) to see if anything changes. If a future skin and/or blood test shows that an allergy may have disappeared, the next step is usually what’s called a food challenge. Your child consumes a tiny amount of the allergen in the office, and if no reaction appears, they try an increasing amount until they can tolerate a normal serving size without experiencing any symptoms. At this point, they will typically be declared free of that allergy.
Even if you feel certain that your child has outgrown a food allergy, you must never attempt a food challenge at home. This should always be controlled and monitored by medical professionals who can swiftly intervene in the event an unexpected reaction occurs.
It’s only natural for parents to hope their child’s food allergies will disappear, never to be seen or heard from again. It would make day-to-day life so much simpler. This dream may become a reality for many families. In the meantime, it’s crucial to become educated on allergen avoidance and what to do in the event of accidental exposure. Once that’s under control, feel free to daydream about a life that doesn’t include scouring ingredient lists and avoiding party food.