How to Know if your Child has a Food Allergy or Food Intolerance

It’s horrible to think that something in your child’s breakfast or evening meal could be causing them to feel ill. However, if you suspect that your little one’s symptoms are being caused by something in their diet, it’s really important that you first recognise the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. Optimise your child’s diet

Symptoms of children’s food allergies and intolerance


Whilst the symptoms of a food intolerance can be hugely disruptive for kids, the effects of an allergy are much more severe and in extreme cases, can even be life threatening.

If your child is allergic to something in their diet, they are likely to experience the effects within an hour of consuming the problem food, sometimes immediately. You should seek immediate medical help if they present any of the following signs of anaphylaxis:

  • Wheezing or chest tightness
  • Swelling of the tongue and throat
  • Hypotension – a sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness, confusion or loss of consciousness

The following symptoms meanwhile, whilst not necessarily life-threatening, are serious and should be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. These include:

  • A flushed face, hives or a red and itchy rash around the mouth, tongue or eyes
  • Mild swelling, most commonly of the lips, eyes or face
  • Frequent sneezing and watering of the eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting, tummy cramps and diarrhoeA
  • An itchy mouth or throat


Food intolerance in kids is less serious than an allergy but could manifest itself in one of the following disruptive symptoms, which could take as long as 72 hours to appear. This makes it very difficult to identify what the trigger food is. Common symptoms could include:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • IBS symptoms, bloating and tummy pain
  • Fatigue and sleep problems
  • Asthma
  • Bed wetting
  • Eczema and other skin reactions
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain
  • Hyperactivity and behavioural problems
  • Rhinitis, sinus problems, glue ear and repeated infections in the nose and throat
  • Anxiety, depression or general irritability

Diagnosing your child’s food allergy

A food allergy happens when the immune system mistakes a certain food as a foreign invader. It releases IgE antibodies, which cause an inflammatory response in the body.

If your child has a suspected food allergy then your GP will refer them to an allergy clinic, where a series of tests can confirm the ingredient(s) that your child is allergic to.

Identifying food intolerance in children

Common food intolerances in children include yeast, dairy, gluten, eggs, wheat, corn, nuts, seafood and sugar. However, it could be any ingredient that is the root cause of the problem.

That’s why YorkTest’s FoodScan Junior Programme tests for IgG antibody reactions to 113 of the most commonly consumed ingredients in a child’s diet.

It’s very important that you first see a GP to rule out any underlying conditions, which may be behind your child’s symptoms. Once you’ve done that, you may want to consider a YorkTest programme.

The FoodScan Junior Programme is the only food intolerance† test for children that we are aware of in the UK, which is specifically designed for 2-18-year olds. It’s a fast-track tool for pin-pointing the ingredients your little one is reacting to.

With support from qualified nutritional therapists included in the price, you’ll also be guided on how to safely introduce nutritious alternatives to your child’s trigger foods into their diet.

Scroll to Top