Manage Your Child’s Soy Allergy
Did you know spring is not the only time of year we experience allergies? Allergies come from different sources such as dust, cats, soy, peanuts, etc. It’s a major cause of illness in the United States. Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have some type of allergy. In fact, allergies account for the loss of an estimated 2 million school days per year. Since allergies affect many families, I wanted to learn more and share information about soy allergy—soy is a product of soy beans. This is one of many allergy posts I plan to write for RN Remedies®.
Soy Allergy Explained
In many cases, soy allergy starts with a reaction to a soy-based infant formula. Although most children eventually outgrow a soy allergy, it can persist into adulthood. Often, signs and symptoms of soy allergy are mild, such as hives or itching in the mouth. In rare cases, soy allergy can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
If you or your child has a reaction to soy, let their doctor know. Tests can help confirm a soy allergy. If you have a soy allergy, you'll need to avoid products that contain soy. This can be difficult, however, as soy is common in many foods, such as meat products, bakery goods, chocolate and breakfast cereals.
Signs and Symptoms of Soy Allergy
Soy allergy symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Bloody stool (this is a common symptom from soy-based formula)
- Hives, itching or itchy, scaly skin (eczema)
- Redness of the skin (flushing)
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
- Tingling in the mouth
- Wheezing, runny nose or trouble breathing
As mentioned above, soy allergy in infants often begins with the introduction of a soy-based formula. Soy allergy may develop when a child is switched to a soy-based formula after an allergic reaction to a milk-based formula.
If you think your child has a soy allergy, their doctor may refer you to an allergist. An allergist may do a skin prick or blood test for immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to get an accurate diagnosis. In the case your child is diagnosed with a soy allergy, notify their school and any family and friends who prepare food for them at any given time.
Soy Hides in Many Foods
If your child is diagnosed with a soy allergy, it helps to know what food to avoid because soy is a hidden ingredient in many household items, which include:
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Shoyu sauce
- Soy (soy albumin, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy milk, soy nuts, soy sprouts)
- Soybean (curd, granules)
- Soybean butter
- Soy lecithin
- Soy protein (concentrate, isolate)
- Soy sauce, tamari
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
- Vegetable oil derived from soy
The following food additives may contain soy protein:
- Flavoring (including natural and artificial)
- Prepared broths, including chicken broth, vegetable broth and bouillon cubes
Your Child’s Soy-Free Lifestyle
The key to an allergy-free diet is to avoid giving your child the foods or products containing the foods to which he or she is allergic. In this case, soy is an allergen and should be avoided in your child’s diet. If you are unsure about whether a specific product contains any food to which your child is allergic, here are a couple suggestions:
- Contact the manufacturer of the food in question.
- Check the ingredient label.
If you are not 100 percent sure, it’s always best to contact the food manufacture or brand. Many websites offer a customer service phone number and email.
Cross-contamination means that soy is not one of the intended ingredients, but may have contaminated a meal or other food items during preparation, production or packaging. Companies are not required to label for cross-contamination risk, though some voluntarily do. You may see advisory statements such as:
- "May contain soy"
- "Processed in a facility that also processes soy"
- "Manufactured on equipment also used for soy"
Since products without precautionary statements also might be cross-contaminated and the company simply
chose not to label for it, it is always best to contact the company to see if the product could contain soy. You might find this information on the company's website or you can contact a company representative via email.
Eating at Places Other than Home
When your child eats in a restaurant or at a friend's house, find out how foods are cooked and exactly what's in them. It can be hard to ask a lot of questions about cooking methods and trust the information you get. If you can't be certain that a food is soy-free, it's best to bring safe food from home.
Talk to the staff at school about cross-contamination risks for foods in the cafeteria. It may be best to pack lunches at home so you can control what's in them.Eating with friends at school is an important part of your child’s educational experience. Making your child’s school lunch is a good strategy that will give your child a chance to socialize, while at the same time keeping him or her safe.
It can be challenging and stressful to manage food allergies. To overcome the stress, it helps to have a good knowledge of foods to avoid, reading labels and making sure to ask questions when you’re not sure.
Many thanks to Ronald Ferdman, MD, physician, Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for his advisement on this RN Remedies blog post.