Food Allergy in 3 Year!

Updated on December 10, 2010
M.H. asks from Petersburg, AK
24 answers

I know that my 3 year old son has a food allergy, I just can't figure out what it is that he's allergic to. He has only had a reaction 3 times and every time it was to the Orange Chicken from Costco. Here are the ingredients, Chicken: Chicken Breast, Water, Cornstarch, Whole Wheat Flour, Salt Eggs, Corn Oil or Soybean oil, Baking Powder, Soy Sauce, Citrus Flour--Orange Sauce: Water, Sugar, Soy Sauce, Cooking Rice Wine, Vinegar, Corn Starch, Mandarin Juice Concentrate, Dehydrated Sweet Red Pepper, Orange Peel, Salt Enhancer, Xanthan Gum, Natural Orange Flavor.

I am not a stranger to food allergies since a few of my siblings and nieces and nephews have them. I know he isn't allergic to any of the common things in it because we eat them in other foods (flour, cornstarch, that sort of thing). I also know that he doesn't have a citrus allergy because he can eat plain oranges. He also loves soy beans and has never had a reaction to those.

So, here's my questions, what else in there could he possibly be allergic to and how do I find out what it is?? The first time he had a reaction it was minor, just his cheeks got read, the second time the red cheeks lasted a little longer. This time, his cheeks were red and welted and so was his back, arms, and legs. From what I understand about allergies it will just continue to get worse if he has the food again so I really want to know what it is so I can avoid that happening. I obviously wont' let him dig into the Orange Chicken again but what if the ingredient is in something else we eat later? Any help will be much appreciated!

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answers from Spokane on

My dad had the same reaction to anything with citrus peel in it. The peel is different from the orange.

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answers from Seattle on

One way to find out is to try each ingredient separately. Even then you can't be sure because it could be a specific type of that ingredient (such as a brand of cooking rice wine) that the manufacturer uses. If you want to know without going that route, ask your pediatrician. He or she may suggest an allergy test.

On another note, you can try a homemade orange chicken recipe. I'm sure you can find one online. I know there's one in the "Family Feasts for 75 Dollars a Week" book. Got it from the library once but never had the time to try the recipes there.

Good luck to you and happy holiday!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

there's a FANTASTIC yahoo group called foodlab.

It's full of parents who have been there and figured it out and they are very willing and able to help you too. It's free to join, so it doesn't hurt to try it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

wheat? eggs? soy? Those are the three things that jumped out at me since you said he has already had flour and citrus. I would say corn too (for cornstarch and corn oil) but you said you had already tried that. Also, did you look on the pack and see if it says something like "used on equipment that manufactures peanuts, tree nuts, or ???" Maybe he is very sensitive to nuts?
I say, take him to the doctor and let them do an allergy test. Then you will know for sure what he is allergic to. Also, until you know for sure, make sure you have Benedryl with you all the girlfriend's son was allergic to everything! She swore by benedryl (to help reduce the reaction) and had epi pens as well.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

- Sulfites in the wine and/or vinegar?
- I'm betting the dehydrated red pepper was not organic and also uses sulfites in the dehydration process.
- Is "salt enhancer" another name for MSG?

Check out the symptoms for wine sulfite allergy as well as symptoms from a MSG allergy. I agree that you should get him tested to confirm. Below is an explanation I found on Wikipedia in regard to reactions to sulpher dioxide and sulfites:

Sulfites are counted among the top nine food allergens, but a reaction to sulfite is not a true allergy.[7] It may cause breathing difficulty within minutes after eating a food containing it,[8] but contrary to popular belief, there are not yet any studies that link sulfites in wine to migranes[9]. Asthmatics[10][11] and possibly people with salicylate sensitivity (or aspirin sensitivity)[12][13] are at an elevated risk for reaction to sulfites. The reaction can, but not often[citation needed], be fatal, and the individual must immediately go to the emergency room.[8] Other symptoms include sneezing, swelling of the throat, and hives.[13]

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

If (that's a big IF because I'm not sure by your description) he had hives all over his body that is a pretty serious reaction. You are right that each exposure can cause a worse reaction and you don't want a situation where he is having trouble breathing.

It can be expensive if your insurance doesn't cover it, but I would say call your pediatrician and either get a referral to an allergist or ask if the ped can do a blood test (RAST test, I think it's called). That way they take a small amount of blood and test it with allergens outside of the body so you're not messing around with trying one thing and then another and possibly causing a bad reaction.

My son has a peanut allergy, and if he gets hives all over his body, we're supposed to give him an Epipen and call an ambulance. I don't want to scare you because food allergies are manageable but you just need to know what to do to stop the reaction and to have the medication with you.

Food allergies can be really weird and unpredictable. At one exposure you can have a serious reaction, the next time nothing happens. Or you can have a delayed reaction or a rebound reaction where you treat it the first time and then because of the way it's metabolized, you have another reaction later that day just because it's still in the blood. If he's not getting hives (I'm just not sure what you meant by welts!) he could have an intolerance to one of the ingredients also. Food intolerance can have some of the same symptoms as allergies but it doesn't involve the immune system or cause life-threatening reactions, more just discomfort. I think sulfites that were mentioned (could be in the dehydrated stuff) are something you can be allergic to OR intolerant to.

Ok, I've probably just confused you more than helped! The bottom line is that I think you should call the doctor and talk it over and see if the reaction you're describing warrants a trip to the allergist. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

This can certainly turn into a serious reaction. I agree with others that allergy testing is important. Also, more and more people are becoming allergic to everyday foods due to GMO crops. The DNA is literally altered and the plants are their own toxin as well as being heavily sprayed with Round-Up. The ingredients you listed have numerous items that are all GMO foods. And the natural flavors most likely have MSG, another reactive ingredient. You can Google GMO Allergy Warnings and come up with hundreds of articles showing research about the dangers of GMO foods and the death of rats in studies, etc.

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answers from Seattle on

From my experience with naturopaths for myself. It is wheat.
Wheat isn't the same as it used to be. Most is GMO. Try taking him off
wheat flour and using rice or oat. Lots of great recipes now for non gluten foods and ready made things in the grocery store in the special diet section.
My vote = WHEAT :-o

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My husband just went in for some allergy testing and at his prior visit, he mentioned that he had trouble with the green chile sauce at Village Inn. The doctor told him to bring it in and they could test him with the actual sauce. The Orange Chicken you refer to has separate chicken and orange sauce, I believe. You could probably eliminate at least one of the two offenders if the sauce and packet are separate. He could be tested for each component. Also, take the ingredients list in with you and have them look at it to see what food allergens it might contain and they might be able to separate out something.

Does he have reactions if you go to a Chinese restaurant where they use MSG? They use some of the same things at the restaurant as they do in the packaged foods, minus the preservatives, of course. You might be able to get some samples of the various ingredients in the Orange Chicken from a Chinese restaurant, and take those to the doctor for testing, too.

Hope this helps. Definitely have him tested and get an EPI-pen. It will be hard to pinpoint what the offender is from the sound of it and you will want the epi-pen in case he has a more severe reaction. Also, get some kid's Benedryl and keep it with you if he has a lesser reaction, like the ones you have described.

I have been a long-time allergy patient and will never be able to be off of shots. I am also growing into food allergies now and had some when very young, as well.

Someone mentioned orange peel being different than oranges. That is true and if he can eat oranges/drink orange juice, you might try giving him a little bit of peel next time and have lots of water and Benedryl nearby.

Good luck to you and your son. Hope you can get it figured out. Make an allergy appt. with a Pediatric Allergist if possible and take the product packaging with you when you go.


answers from Eugene on

Get on organic food only. Do you know that your son could be allergic to the hormones injected into chickens or included in their feed? He could be allergic to pesticides sprayed on food.
Organically grown food can cut down on allergic reactions. And cook your food yourself. Then you know everything that is in it.
If your child is young and cannot eat something do not even bring it into the house. He could get sick from breathing it.
I've been allergic all my life and I do know what it takes to keep the allergies from flaring up.



answers from Dallas on

Take him to the doctor to be tested real simple.



answers from Seattle on

The most mysterious item looks like the salt enhancer. Do they really mean MSG?



answers from Seattle on

Have you talked to your pediatrician? Can you get a referral to an allergist? An allergist can help you find out what your child is reacting to by running special tests. Take him to the doctor.


answers from Santa Fe on

MSG in the soy sauce? I am allergic to MSG and sulfides which are in practically every prepared food, even if not listed (it can be in the ingredient "spices" and "natural flavor" and other ingredients as well.



answers from Seattle on

Hi M.,
Your son sounds very similar to mine. I took him to the doctor and it turns out it's oranges/orange juice that he is allergice to. He gets hives (progressively worse each of his 3 times) all over his body. Stear clear of oranges/orange juice and I bet he will be just fine. :)



answers from Pittsburgh on

You need to have allergy testing done so you know what you are dealing with. I know it is possible to be allergic to even chicken. It could also be a cross contamination issue. Have testing done so you know for sure.



answers from Portland on

i have heard of people being allergic to xanthan gum. i would do allergy tests to help figure it out so you can be prepared for the worst.



answers from Eugene on

Oh boy, we've been through this several times since my 2 daughters and I have severe food allergies. Allergy testing often doesn't help. The scratch test is not accurate with foods and the blood test only tests for a few of the most common allergens but it is more accurate.

Since your son has reacted twice to this same item, keep a list of all the ingredients so you can cross reference it if he reacts to something else. Whatever the two foods have in common is probably the culprit. Until then, carry benadryl with you and see about getting an epi-pen just in case. You can try doing a food challenge of the individual ingredients in the Orange Chicken but I'd recommend doing it in the doctor's office. Our dr. had us come in after hours to test all 4 of our kids so he could watch and be ready for a reaction.

Here are some things I'm allergic to in that ingredient list that might give you some ideas to find your son's allergies: Baking Powder-aluminum phosphate is commonly used and I can't have anything that has phosphates; wine and vinegar- (allergic to fermented foods), citrus-I can have some but when it reaches a certain threshold I get hives. There is alot of citrus in there: Mandarin juice is concentrated plus there is orange peel and citrus flour and orange flavor (also concentrated orange) !

I'd be suspicious of the salt enhancer because they don't specify what it is. You could try contacting Costco or the manufacturer for clarification on this ingredient. You can also ask about any additional ingredients that may be present in trace amounts and not listed. By law, the company only has to list ingredients if it makes up over a certain percentage of the product.

GMO is a big problem these days but almost all non-organic soybean and corn is genetically modified now. So if your son has been OK with other soy and corn products, he's probably not reacting to the GMO part of the item.

I have found the "Food Allergy Network" to be a tremendous help, especially their monthly articles about the latest research and info. Good luck, hope you are able to find the culprit causing your son's allergy.



answers from Columbus on

Particularly because his reactions are getting worse with each exposure, you should really take him to see an allergist and get him allergy tested. Talk him to your pediatrician first if need be, to get a referral, but he needs to be allergy tested so that the culprit can be identified and avoided.

If his reactions continue to get worse, he could end up with anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly. And without knowing what is causing it, you can't be sure that you can avoid it.

For now, though, stay away from any Chinese or ethnic food that you don't make yourself at home from scratch (from stuff you know exactly what it is). A lot of prepackaged foods have items that are not 100% understandable (ie, what is "salt enhancer"? sounds like maybe MSG?).

Cooking from scratch is best way to go, at least till the allergen is IDed, because you will absolutely what is in the end product.... I know it's a pain and can be time consuming better safe than sorry!



answers from Portland on

He could be allergic to corn, eggs, rice, any number of things. If you want to know definitively, then you should go get a blood or scratch test done by an allergist. My son is allergic to wheat, oats, rye, barley, eggs, dairy, soy, beef, pineapple, cantaloupe, peanuts, and dogs. I have a friend whose son is allergic to corn, rice, bananas, etc. Between the two of them, they can't eat anything! There's no rhyme or reason to allergies; the surefire way to know is to get tested.


answers from Chicago on

were there seseme seeds anywhere?



answers from Seattle on

I agree with pretty much everyone. My son reacts to skin irritants this way--pink cheeks and hives on neck, specifically, and I'm still working on getting his grandmother to stop using fabric softener in the laundry!--but benadryl takes care of the rash and cheeks really fast.

Allergens, though, by their very nature take two exposures to develop. The first time the child might have no reaction at all, and then it begins on the second exposure. My son's pediatrician explained it to me, for he's been slowly developing allergy-induced asthma (he's now 6). We're moving this month, but as soon as that's over, I'm going to ask for an allergy test, so that we can find out exactly what he's allergic to.

As to the ingredients list, I am most suspicious of the pepper and the "salt enhancer"--MSG is a red flag, for tons of people are allergic to it, and I and my mother had to avoid it while pregnant or our feet would swell. I would consult a pediatrician, though, and find out for certain what he's reacting to, for his reaction might grow more serious in time. It can't be something too common, though, or he'd have the reaction more frequently.

Good luck!



answers from Portland on

Go to These are health professionals that take care of food allergies. There should be one in your area. If you don't want to see them except for food allergies tell them that.




answers from Seattle on

I second everything Laura wrote. I also wondered this: did you serve a side dish with the Orange Chicken? Anything in there that might trigger a response? Until you can get him to your ped, get some Benedryl and keep it with you at all times. His backpack, glove box(es), your purse, kitchen drawer - everywhere. I hope you find an answer quickly!

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