Allergy ‘warning signs’ as charity says 10 severe reactions can strike at any time

Allergies can strike unexpectedly in children, with severe reactions to certain foods often being life-threatening.

Allergy UK says childhood food allergies are becoming increasingly common, with around one in 12 young children affected.

It comes as Made In Chelsea star Binky Felstead’s 12-month-old son was rushed to hospital following a severe reaction after his face went red and his tongue started swelling while eating lunch.

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The little boy was taken to hospital, where the “amazing” staff confirmed he was suffering from anaphylactic shock – a very serious form of allergic reaction. He was given an adrenaline shot, which helped his symptoms calm down, and later discharged, along with two EpiPens in case he should have any more reactions.

The reality star, 32, said in a post on Instagram that they think the reaction may have been to “the sesame in the hummus he had at lunch” and is now looking for an allergy specialist to assess him.

Allergy UK explains that such allergies occur because children’s immune systems get confused, and instead of ignoring harmless food proteins, the immune system treats them as a threat, releasing histamine into their system. The histamine then causes allergy symptoms, like a runny nose, hives and itching, and sometimes anaphylaxis – a medical emergency which can be life-threatening. Thankfully, severe reactions are more rare, but it’s important for everyone to be aware of the warning signs.

Made In Chelsea star Binky Felstead’s 12-month-old son was rushed to hospital following a severe reaction

“Allergies such as food allergies, eczema, asthma and hay fever can affect anyone at any age. However, allergies do tend to run in families,” says Margaret Kelman, Allergy UK’s head of clinical services. “Food allergy, in particular, is very unpredictable – most food allergic reactions are mild but occasionally a reaction can be life-threatening. The most effective treatment is complete avoidance of the allergenic food.”

Common foods that can cause allergic reactions are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and shellfish – although all foods can potentially cause allergic reactions. The NHS says it’s still not known why some people develop food allergies, although they’ll often have other allergy-related conditions too, such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.

Allergy warning symptoms to look out for

Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

These symptoms need urgent medical attention and can include:

  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • swelling of the tongue and throat
  • noisy breathing, a cough or a change in voice can be caused by tongue swelling restricting the airways
  • a sudden drop in blood pressure
  • shock
  • dizziness and confusion
  • possible collapse
  • loss of consciousness
  • even comma

“If you or your child have a severe allergic reaction then do not delay in getting medical help, give adrenaline if it’s available, and call for an ambulance and tell the operator it is anaphylaxis,” stresses Kelman.

Mild immediate food allergy symptoms

These typically affect children’s skin, respiratory and digestive systems, and can include:

  • a flushed face
  • hives
  • a red and itchy rash around the mouth, tongue or eyes which can then spread around the body
  • mild swelling, particularly of the lips, eyes and face
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • nausea and vomiting
  • tummy cramps and diarrhea
  • an itchy mouth and throat

“Symptoms generally occur within a few minutes after eating the food, although in some cases they can take up to an hour,” says Kelman.

Delayed allergy symptoms

Food allergy symptoms don’t always appear immediately after eating. Delayed food allergy effects can range from:

  • eczema
  • reflux
  • constipation and/or diarrhea
  • a child may also be affected by poor growth
  • parents and carers may notice they are raising their knees to the chest because of tummy pain
  • frequent unexplained distress and crying

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“Delayed food reactions don’t usually cause severe allergic reactions – the symptoms generally take several hours to appear after the food is eaten,” explains Kelman.

If you have any concerns that your baby or child may be showing signs of food allergy, speak to your doctor. In the event of a severe allergic reaction, always call 999.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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