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Patient Information

Allergic Gastrointestinal Disorders

When a child has a digestive disease that is caused by an allergic reaction, it can result in a host of uncomfortable and sometimes life-threating symptoms. These include:

  • Vomiting, sometimes projectile
  • Immediate swelling of the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stool

It all depends on each child and the region impacted by the allergic reaction. Through our pediatric gastroenterology office, children can be tested to determine the cause of their allergic reaction and get expert advice on treatment and nutritional therapies that will help your child avoid the uncomfortable symptoms associated with food allergies.

Most common food allergies are dairy and soy, but some others include:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Peas, green beans and sweet potatoes
  • Rice, oats, barley and wheat

Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES)
When an infant or child has an extreme allergy to protein-based foods, they may be diagnosed with FPIES. Enterocolitis is inflammation that affects both the small and large intestines. Children who have this reaction have persistent vomiting and diarrhea and may have slowed growth. Most often, it is caused by an allergy to cow’s milk or soy, but other foods can cause the reaction.

Children who have FPIES are often first diagnosed with the stomach flu, but it can always be traced back to the food allergy. The reaction begins shortly after drinking or eating the offending food. In most cases, this allergy is discovered early in life, usually in infancy. Babies who have a dairy or soy allergy react when they are introduced to solid foods that contain the ingredients.

While each child reacts differently, most will have gastrointestinal issues – vomiting and watery diarrhea – that start two to eight hours after ingestion. This reaction can continue for many days and can be life-threatening if the child becomes dehydrated or goes into shock. If this happens, it is a medical emergency and your child needs to go to the nearest emergency department for treatment.

How is FPIES diagnosed?
Since this particular allergy is normally confined to the digestive system, traditional skin and blood allergy tests are not useful. In many cases, it is confirmed when a child has more than one allergic reaction.

How is FPIES treated?
Many children grow out of FPIES over time, so it is not a lifelong condition, but it can be dependent on the particular food. Dairy allergies are more longstanding and impact children for a greater time.

For infants who are diagnosed with FPIES related to dairy and soy, they are normally switched to a hypoallergenic formula. Older children simply avoid the food that causes the reaction. Over time, you can work with our staff on reintroducing foods to see if there is a reaction. This will be carefully monitored through in-house testing to ensure your child’s safety.