Food Allergies and Behavior Problems in Children

Food allergies in children are on the rise. More people of all ages are being diagnosed with food allergies than ever before. This increase in food allergies could have a lot to do with some of the negative behaviors kids are exhibiting at home and school. Undiagnosed food allergies in children can be elusive, leading to unnecessary medications. Many children continue to suffer from food allergies as they are punished for poor behavior and medicated for hyperactivity and ADHD. Some children are exhibiting physical symptoms that they can’t even express to their parents, and so the cycle continues. If your child’s negative behavior is affecting his home or school performance, you might want to take a look at the possibility that his problems are related to a food allergy.

The Symptoms

Food allergies occur in two ways, immediate reactions and delayed reactions. Immediate reactions are usually pretty easy to identify, since they are acute and happen soon after your child eats a particular food. The elusive food allergies are those known as delayed reaction food allergies. These allergies are so hard to identify because the child shows no signs of problems from eating a food until up to 48 hours after consuming the food. The symptoms can be very vague too, leading to further confusion. Some of the symptoms of delayed reaction food allergies in children include: headaches, muscle cramps, joint pains, hyperactivity, inability to concentrate on school work, diarrhea, extreme irritability, autism-like characteristics, and skin problems such as eczema, hives, or itching. These manifestations may make homework time extra challenging for both you and your child.

What to Do

If your child is exhibiting any of the above symptoms and has behavior problems at home or school, you need to recognize the possibility that your child could be suffering from a food allergy. If you suspect a food allergy, there are skin tests as well as blood tests that are available to confirm your suspicions, although they are not absolute. If your child is suffering from a food intolerance, you could see some of these symptoms, and skin tests may come back negative. In this case an allergy elimination diet is the best way to determine the foods your child is having problems with. Some of the most common food allergens are: wheat, dairy, soy, corn, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and eggs. Once you know which foods are the culprits, you can avoid serving these foods to your child. Be aware that it could take up to several months before you see a complete turn-around in your child’s health and behavior.

As always, discuss and concerns you might have with your child’s physician. Food allergies in children are a common occurrence, and the potential impact on your child’s behavior should never be ignored.


The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network