Outgrowing Food Allergies
If your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy your brain immediately begins searching for hope that they will outgrow the allergy naturally. You should know that it does happen a lot, and there are patterns to who outgrows an allergy and who doesn’t.
Children are more likely to outgrow an allergy if they are:
- only allergic to one thing or food
- they do not have eczema or asthma
Because each food allergy is a bit different, it’s best to discuss the top 8 allergens one at a time.
Milk Allergy / Cow’s Milk Allergy / Dairy Allergy
Cow's milk allergy (CMA) is the most common food allergy in babies and young children, but also an allergy very likely to resolve.
Outgrowing cow’s milk allergy depends on whether it is IgE mediated or non-IgE mediated, what age it started, and if a child can tolerate baked milk.
Children are more likely to outgrow cow’s milk allergy if:
- Their allergy is non-IgE mediated (59% of cow’s milk allergies are non-IgE and 22% are IgE-mediated)
- Their allergy started after 1 month old
- They can tolerate baked milk (28x!), and regularly eat baked milk (48% who eat baked milk vs 0% who avoid baked milk outgrew a milk allergy)
- They have lower IgE levels (<2 kUA/L)
Egg Allergy / Hen’s Egg Allergy
Along with cow’s milk, egg allergy is one of the most common in babies and is often a predictor of other food allergies like peanut allergy and asthma. Also like cow’s milk allergy, children are more likely to outgrow an egg allergy if:
- They can tolerate baked egg, and regularly eat baked egg
- They have lower IgE levels to egg (skin test wheal <5mm)
Egg allergies continue to resolve even up to age 10, and seem to resolve more slowly than cow’s milk allergy. Tolerance to baked eggs shows up earlier, and if a child eats baked egg, it can speed up the resolution of a full egg allergy.
Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies
Peanut and tree nut allergies are often studied together because about 40% of children are allergic to both. About 20% to 25% of children naturally outgrow their peanut allergies, whereas only 9% of children outgrow tree nut allergies.
In both cases, having lower IgE levels of smaller wheals on skin prick testing predicted a higher chance of outgrowing the allergy.
Even though peanut and tree nut allergies overlap, outgrowing a peanut allergy does not mean a child will outgrow their tree nut allergies. Each food has to be considered separately.
Wheat allergy is a less common allergy in children, but is still one of the top 8 food allergies. Most children with a wheat allergy have eczema and other food allergies. Thankfully for the carb-lovers among us, wheat allergy is outgrown about 33% of the time by age 2, and 80% of the time by age 5.
Children who have severe eczema or asthma are least likely to outgrow a wheat allergy, similar to cow’s milk and egg allergy.
Soy Allergy / Other
Less common infant food allergies are not as well studied, however approximately 50% of children were shown to outgrow soy allergy by age 7. Sesame allergy, which is a seed, only resolves about 20% of the time like other nut allergies.
The Bottom Line About Outgrowing Food Allergies
The true reason why some kids outgrow food allergies is not understood, but it’s clear that in order for an allergy to go away, the immune system has to learn to stay calm when it sees that trigger. Children who have a calmer immune system to begin with, with fewer allergies and fewer conditions, are more likely to outgrow allergies.
Controlling eczema and asthma can be as important as avoiding your triggers in getting the immune system to calm down. Yearly skin prick or blood testing can help your allergist see if the immune system is calming down (lower IgE levels) and can help decide if it’s time to try an oral food challenge.
There is hope, and if an allergy is not outgrown, new treatments are being developed with high success rates to reduce the chances of an allergic reaction.