Q. Do children grow out of food allergies?
A. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, most children eventually outgrow allergy to milk, soy, wheat, and eggs, but fewer kids outgrow nut allergies. Kids may outgrow allergies as late as their teens. A 2013 study that surveyed 40,000 US households found that nearly 27 percent of children with food allergies had outgrown them by age 5, ranging from 41 percent for milk allergy to 13 percent for shellfish allergy. Children were more likely to outgrow them if their first reaction was earlier in life or was less severe.
Michael Pistiner, a pediatric food allergist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, says that it’s important to get a suspected food allergy diagnosed by a board-certified allergist, since some allergies can be life-threatening. But it’s also important to monitor the allergy with regular visits after the diagnosis. “We could potentially loosen restrictions that may not be necessary,” he says.
Pistiner adds that while many kids outgrow allergies, many will not. Parents should focus on helping kids manage the allergy and feel comfortable with it. “Giving them the tools to feel proud of taking good care of themselves is not easy, but it’s very doable,” he says. Emphasize that they can still live life to the fullest. “These are kids who feel good, and they are healthy as long as they don’t come in contact with the food they’re allergic to,” he says. “I like to make the analogy of Superman and kryptonite.”