If your child develops allergy symptoms after eating, the doctor may recommend you make an appointment with an allergist, and meanwhile keep a food diary.
The allergist will work to determine which foods, if any, are the cause of your child’s symptoms, and a well kept food diary can speed the process.
Food diaries help by narrowing the list of potential allergens. This is useful since allergy tests are better for confirming suspected food triggers than for identifying triggers from a large pool of suspects.
What To Include In Your Diary
To narrow the list of possible allergens food diaries must be detailed, and specific for meals where symptoms do, and do not, occur. To create a thorough food diary:
- List all foods eaten, the date and time they were consumed, how the food was prepared (e.g., cooked, baked, raw, fried), recipe ingredients, or a copy of recipes followed. When prepared foods/ingredients are used, note the brand names (e.g., Gerber, Campbell). Indicate whether a food is being eaten for the first time.
- Tape food labels from packaged items into the diary.
- Ideally, list the ingredients used in meals eaten at restaurants, including sauces, seeds, and spices (you will have to speak with the chef or cook), or at least keep a record of when, where, and what foods are consumed outside the home.
- Keep a record of symptoms that occur day or night, including date, and time of onset, how long they persist, and whether the symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe. (Allergy symptoms include hives, rashes, paleness, flushing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stuffy/runny nose, itchy/scratchy throat, coughing, trouble breathing, irritability, dizziness, fainting, rapid pulse, lethargy, headache, mental confusion.)
- Enter pertinent observations, such as a rash occurring after skin contact with food, signs of an illness (e.g., fever), and list possible physical triggers including heat, cold, sweating, exposure to animals, or a change in laundry detergent.
- Consider taking photos of hives, rashes, or redness; it may help with the diagnosis.
- Record related information: prescription or OTC medications used, vitamins, emergency room or clinic visits, asthma, any illnesses, injuries, physical therapy, dental visits, insect bites, stressful events, menstrual cycle, sport activities, travel, alcohol/drug/cigarette use, exposure to latex, pollen, mold, perfumes, or fresh paint.
An allergist may also recommend keeping a food diary for a while following a food allergy diagnosis. This allows parents to track symptom improvements over time, and helps organize thoughts and concerns for follow-up visits.