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Adverse Gastrointestinal Food Reactions

Adverse gastrointestinal (GI) food reactions in children are often tied to a food allergy. The body responds to an allergen with inflammation of the GI tract. A GI food reaction in children may present symptoms such as vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea and trouble swallowing.


A child with a GI reaction may show symptoms immediately after ingesting food up to two or more hours after ingestion. Symptoms can include vomiting, abdominal pain, swelling of the lips and mouth, heartburn, diarrhea, trouble swallowing, gagging and choking on food.


Skin tests to foods can sometimes help with the diagnosis, but are often not reliable with adverse gastrointestinal food reactions. The patient’s medical history is important and an evaluation by a gastroenterologist is often necessary as well.


If the GI allergy is caused by food, avoidance is the best treatment. Avoid any food that you do not know all of its ingredients or if you do not recognize an ingredient. Our staff teaches your family to read food labels and identify the many ways a food can be labeled. We advise families to use products that are free of the allergen.

We also encourage families to use the resources provided by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). This organization provides warnings about contamination issues, suggests food substitutes and offers educational material to help schools, playgroups and relatives understand the problem. We can also refer you and your family to dietitians experienced in working with families with food allergy issues.

The American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders provides another helpful website. They provide information for those living with eosinophilic esophagitis, eosinophilic gastroenteritis, eosinophilic colitis, hypereosinophilic syndrome and other eosinophilic disorders.

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell. Eosinophilic disorders arise when eosinophils occur in larger than normal amounts in the blood. When the body perceives a threat, like an allergy-triggering food or an airborne allergen, eosinophils respond by moving to the attacked area and releasing toxins. However, if there are too many eosinophils, they can cause inflammation and tissue damage. Eosinophilic disorders are diagnosed by the location of the elevated eosinophils.

Location(s) Offering Pediatric Allergy & Asthma Services