Food allergy in children: diagnosis and treatment

Estimated Duration: 
1 hour

Food allergies (FA) and other allergic diseases can result in life-threatening reactions and they significantly impact quality of life. Food allergies can develop at any age but are most common in young children 5 years and under, including young babies. 

Whilst the rates of FA in children in New Zealand are not known, in Australia, up to 10% of 1-year-olds have proven food allergy. The most common food allergies are to milk, egg and peanut. Other common allergens include fish, shellfish, tree nuts, kiwifruit, sesame, wheat and soy.

Risk factors for FA include:

  • Atopy (most children with FA have eczema)
  • Family history of atopy
  • Family history of FA

For reasons that are unclear, the prevalence of food allergies may be increasing in New Zealand and as with other developed nations it is recognised as a significant public health concern.

Early recognition is important as the earlier FA is recognised the sooner it can be managed, with parent education, environmental changes and medication where appropriate. It is also important to note that many allergies can co-exist, so symptoms of related disorders need to be considered.

Learning objectives:

  • overview the epidemiology of FA
  • understand factors to consider in diagnosing FA
  • understand the FA testing options and when to use these
  • understand the treatment and management of children with FA.


The content has been developed by Dr Jan Sinclair, Paediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology; Dr Kylie Morse, and Dr Yaw Moh with input from Allergy New Zealand, Dr Shannon Brothers and Dr Rohan Ameratunga. The course was updated in 2019 by Jan Sinclair, with new guidelines incorporated in 2020 by Dr Grace Lee, FRNZCGP, MBCHB, BSc, DipTravMed. 

The material is presented by the Goodfellow Unit (GFU), an accredited continuing medical education/ continuing professional development (CME/CPD) provider for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and functions under a tripartite agreement between the Goodfellow Foundation, the College and the University of Auckland. The Unit is located within the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, and within the School of Population Health.


Sign in to start this course.

Sign in Register

(If you are not already a Goodfellow member click the Register button. It takes less than a minute and is completely free)