Food Allergies

Comprehensive Care for Children with Food Allergies

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Children who develop a rash, hives, swelling, vomiting, or difficulty breathing after eating certain foods often have food allergies. Even though allergic reactions can be severe, food allergies are manageable -- and many kids outgrow them. Duke Children’s allergy and immunology specialists uncover food triggers and help your child live safely and confidently with food allergies.

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Diagnosing Food Allergies and Related Conditions in Children

Our pediatric allergists are experts in diagnosing the full spectrum of food allergies -- including peanut, milk, and other common allergens -- as well as food intolerances, such as lactose or gluten intolerance. We also diagnose and treat the following complex allergic conditions that may cause serious complications.

  • Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES)
    This type of food allergy affects the GI tract. It causes severe vomiting or diarrhea in babies up to several hours after they have eaten certain foods.
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Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Treatments for Food Allergies in Children

Medical Treatment

Some life-threatening allergies require emergency medicine to stop a severe reaction, such as epinephrine in a syringe (EpiPen®, Adrenaclick®, or Auvi-q®). Milder, non-life-threatening symptoms can often be treated with antihistamines.

Food Allergy Action Plans

Together, we create a written food allergy action plan that is updated at every visit. These plans outline the difference between a mild reaction and a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. This helps reduce anxiety and teaches you and your child to recognize when it’s okay to take an antihistamine or when to use epinephrine

Nutrition Counseling

You and your child may be referred to a registered dietitian who helps children with one or more food allergies maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet, despite having to avoid certain foods.

Education and Support

​​We help answer your child’s questions. We also educate your child and family about the condition and how to cope with social anxieties that may be related to food allergies. 

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Tests for Food Allergies in Children

Duke’s pediatric allergy and immunology specialists take time to evaluate your child’s symptoms and answer your questions and concerns. We may perform a variety of tests to determine the food allergy type and severity.

Skin Prick Tests

These tests confirm the presence of food allergies using a liquid solution that contains allergens. Raised bumps, or wheals, indicate sensitization to a food.

Blood Tests

These tests detect whether the body produces antibodies against certain foods, which could potentially trigger an allergic reaction. Interpretation of these tests by experts is important, as they often show sensitization that does not necessarily indicate a true clinical allergy.

Oral Food Challenges

Performed in the safety of our clinic, these challenges allow for the introduction of foods in a supervised setting, often to confirm a child has outgrown their food allergy. The process takes several hours and requires medical oversight in the event of a severe reaction. 

Best Children's Hospital in NC

Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties.

Treating Your Child’s Food Allergy

Living with food allergies begins with a proper diagnosis. This is an important first step because some food allergies can be life-threatening and require different levels of care. Our pediatric allergists provide comprehensive care that includes accurate diagnosis, ongoing education, symptom management, and referrals to specialists. Our care continues until your child outgrows his or her food allergy or transitions care to an adult allergy specialist.

Education and Assistance
​​We help you and your child understand food allergies, including what to look out for and how to read food labels, prepare meals, and eat away from home.

A Team of Specialists
When necessary, we refer your child to a gastroenterologist or nutritionist to help manage his or her diet and reduce digestive symptoms.

Regular Monitoring
We monitor your child’s allergies regularly. If your child appears to be outgrowing a food allergy, we can often work to safely incorporate the food back into the diet, using oral food challenges as necessary.

Convenient Care
If your child has other allergies, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, or eczema, we provide comprehensive care in one location. 

This page was medically reviewed on 09/14/2023 by