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Behavioral Symptoms of Food Allergies in Children

by Amy Phoenix, studioD

Food allergies in children can cause a range of reactions in the body. Behavioral symptoms of food allergies in children may look like normal behavior on the surface but deserve more attention if your child has eaten something new or always acts out after eating a certain food. Knowing what to look for can help you determine a cause and create plan for your child's healthy eating.

Attention Issues

Children who are sensitive to a certain food or foods may have difficulty concentrating and staying focused. Both the Dr. Sears pediatric website and nutritionist Dr. Lawrence Wilson's website list behavior issues such as hyperactivity, bed-wetting, anxiety and night waking as potential symptoms of food allergies in children.

Irritability, Fatigue, Aggression

Food sensitivity in some children can manifest as irritability, tiredness, crying and aggression. If the child is experiencing irritation on the inside of the body, it may show itself on the outside through behavior. Dr. Sears warns to not pin behavior issues just on food allergies, though, without looking to see if there are other symptoms.

Whole Body Symptoms

Along with behavioral symptoms, there are many ways that the body can react to food through the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract and the cardiovascular system. Some of these include rashes, eczema, belly aches, congestion, or lightheadedness. These can make your child uncomfortable, causing him to act irritable or misbehave. According to KidsHealth.org, anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction to a food where more than one system is affected and the throat swells and closes. A child who is experiencing anaphylaxis may appear to be choking with facial flushing or swelling.


According to Dr. Wilson, there are many potential causes for food allergies such as poor eating habits, too many processed foods, "leaky gut" syndrome -- when partially digested proteins enter the bloodstream and irritate the body -- or enzyme deficiencies, which occur when the body doesn't have proper enzymes to fully digest food. Although causes are speculated, there is some controversy among health care practitioners about the origination of food allergies and the behaviors that result.

Keeping A Food Log

Learning what foods don't work for a child is a first step to helping reduce symptoms. According to Dr. Sears, keeping a food and symptom log can help keep track and begin the process of healing. Each day, write down exactly what the child eats at what time and record any behaviors or symptoms that you feel need attention. Share the log with a health care practitioner to come up with a plan to address any areas of concern.

About the Author

Amy Phoenix began writing professionally in 2005. Her work has appeared in various online publications, including Mothering. Phoenix is a certified parent educator, trained meditation facilitator, and enjoys writing about natural health, parenting, spirituality, and organization.

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