Is there a chance that children can outgrow their food allergies? It appears so, based upon official studies and unofficial stories. For instance, my younger son, who just turned five, had his annual allergy skin prick test just before his birthday. He had shown positive for egg and dairy since he started skin prick tests when he was two. We never actually fed him these foods, except one bottle of cow’s milk formula the nurse gave him (by mistake) on the day he was born.
Now finally, his skin prick test for dairy, at age five, came back negative. We were then referred to a larger office of allergists where they conduct "challenge tests." But before the doctor to whom we were referred would do a dairy challenge test, she insisted on a blood test. She said that only if both the skin prick and the blood test come back negative is there a solid chance that the child has fully outgrown the allergy. So two weeks later we had the blood test done and another week passed until we learned that the results were negative, which was good news.
We scheduled our “challenge test” and my son had to miss a day of school. It lasted three long hours, but my son passed the test and was able to consume six ounces of organic 2% cow’s milk in increasing amounts over the first two of the three hours. After the test, I was exhausted--emotionally. I had tried not to get too excited, for fear of disappointment, but when I found out he was okay, the thrill I had dreamed of was lacking for me. I think I had prepared myself for failure, so was somewhat hardened which left the happiness factor out in the cold to a certain extent. It took about a week before I shared the good news with my friends and some others. Yes, this reaction is weird, but that’s what happened. Now about a month later, I feel relief, and I guess happiness, but I think I am still quite guarded, probably from a continued fear of disappointment.
Enough about me, upon seeing my older son get off the school bus, I wondered, "What do I tell my six-and-one-half year old still allergic to dairy?" Well, I told him that he should be happy for his little brother. He responded, “Oh!” and his eyes lit up a bit. Very sweet. Then I said, “and because your little brother has outgrown his allergy to cow’s milk it could mean that you are next because you and he are so much alike.” It is wrong to set up this hope? I don’t know, but hope is something you can live on for a long time. So I will indulge in it as much as I can. Coincidentally, a couple of weeks before all of the success of my younger son, his older brother said for the first time, “I wish I didn’t have food allergies,” one night just before going to sleep. I assured him he would outgrow them someday. Then sometime over the next week, during dinner, something inspired me to tell my boys that food allergies really aren’t that bad because there are a lot worse things that can happen to a person, then I proceeded to list them off. Not sure this was the right thing to do, but it did stop any further “whining” about our situation.
I can only attribute my younger son’s success in outgrowing his allergy to strict avoidance. My husband and I are extremely careful about not giving him any foods that contain dairy, even in trace amounts. Other than that, we try to reduce stress in our lives as much as possible and give our kids their time to be quiet and play as they wish--which supports the toxic load theory. Sometimes this means not signing them up for another session of soccer or t-ball so they can relax on Saturday mornings rather than rushing out for yet another activity. Also, I faithfully give my son a dairy-free multi vitamin and dairy-free probiotic supplement every morning.
What about other food allergies? What are the average rates for outgrowing those?
80% or “most” of children will outgrow these allergies by the time they are 16 and as early as age 3:
- Dairy (cow’s milk products)
As many as 20% of children will outgrow their allergy to:
About 10% will outgrow their allergy to:
- Tree nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts (filberts), macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts (pignolias), pistachio nuts and walnuts. Note: Peanuts are part of the legume family and are not considered a tree nut.)
As for fish and shellfish, most research says the allergy is normally life-long. But perhaps some reactions can be outgrown. For instance, my father had reactions of severe nausea and vomiting after eating scallops and shrimp as a teenager and in his early twenties. He recalls, "The first instance was in New York. I was about sixteen years old when I went to lunch with one of my friends. Then I went back to work. Once at work I vomited so badly I had to go home. Another time was when was in college when I was about twenty years old. I ate at the college restaurant and vomited again. In both cases the other people had the same food and were fine, so I concluded that the food wasn't bad--it was my reaction to it. So I swore scallops and shrimp off." The good news is that in his mid-twenties, my mother convinced him to try eating these scallops one night. He tried and he was fine! Over the past forty-five years, he has been able to eat scallops and shrimp without a problem.
The above statistics were taken from articles located at: