Kids and Living with Food Allergies


A food allergy usually occurs in the first two years of life, says Dr. Ellis, a CHOC  Allergy and Immunology Specialist. “It’s important to know that allergic reactions to  food typically occur immediately or within two hours of eating the food,” Dr. Ellis explains. “The child might have skin issues like hives (itchy red spots) or develop itchy skin, or the child might throw up. All the organ systems can be involved. The child might wheeze or become short of breath. In severe cases, the cardiovascular system can be involved and the child could have a drop in blood pressure, feel light headed and faint.”


There is no cure for food allergies and the best way to avoid getting sick is avoiding the food. “You have to find out what the child is allergic to. This comes from the family history and then we take a blood test or a skin test to confirm what the family has told the doctor,” says Dr. Ellis. With a serious reaction, an adult should inject the child with epinephrine (adrenaline that reverses the symptoms) and call 9-1-1. “Always have an epinephrine auto-injector. Learn how to read food labels and be careful at high-risk eating areas such as buffets, ice cream parlors and Asian restaurants.”


Any food can cause an allergy but a small number of foods are most commonly associated with food allergies. In fact, eight foods/food types account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions. They are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and almonds), soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction, including a severe or life-threatening reaction. Peanuts, tree nuts and fish are the most common causes of severe reactions, says Dr. Ellis.


  • Estimated number of American children and adults with food allergies: 15 million
  • Annual cost to the U.S. economy related to children’s food allergies: Almost $25 Billion
  • Percentage of children under the age of six with food allergies: 6 – 8

Meet Dr. Ellis - CHOC Allergy & Immunology Specialist

Dr. Mark Ellis completed his residency at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in  Tucson and a fellowship in Allergy-Immunology at the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center. Dr. Ellis is chief of the CHOC Specialists Allergy & Immunology Division and is the Director of the Allergy, Asthma & Immunology program at CHOC. Dr. Ellis specializes in the treatment and management of allergies and asthma. He is a principal investigator for many clinical research studies for adults and children concerning new treatments for asthma and allergies.

Dr. Ellis’ philosophy of care: “I like to identify the problem and educate the family on ways
to prevent disease.”

Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans

Pediatrics Allergy and Immunology

Dr. Mark Ellis

Coping with Food Allergies

Food allergies can be rough on children and their families. Children, especially if they are older, may feel depressed or angry about having foods taken away from them. Younger children may feel frustrated about not being able to eat the things their friends are eating, and may not fully understand why they have been put on special diets.

Parents and family members of children with food allergies deal with a full range of emotions, as well. They often feel worried about how their child will feel and be accepted by others. Some feel sad or guilty about taking foods, especially those the child enjoys, away.

Young girls eating lunch at school

Tips for Keeping the Home Safe for Kids with Food Allergies

Shonda Brown in Seacrest Studio

The ease of removing an allergen and the severity of a food allergy should factor into a family’s decision whether or not to adopt a family-wide allergy-free diet, a CHOC clinical dietician tells CHOC Radio. Shonda Brown recently stopped by Seacrest Studios to provide tips on how a family of children with and without food allergies can live in harmony and safety. Listen to the podcast to learn about ways to avoid cross contamination in the kitchen, what to lookfor on nutrition labels, and how to enjoy a family meal at a restaurant.

Food Allergy Resources for Families

Having a child with a food allergy can be challenging at times, but with care and menu planning, these kids can lead happy and healthy lives free of allergic reactions.

“These kids can live a normal life and with proper education, this problem is very manageable,” says Dr. Mark. Ellis, director of the allergy, asthma and immunology program at CHOC.

Smiling mom with her children

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