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Manifestations of food protein induced gastrointestinal allergies presenting to a single tertiary paediatric gastroenterology unit

Rosan Meyer1*, Catharine Fleming2, Gloria Dominguez-Ortega1, Keith Lindley1, Louise Michaelis3, Nikhil Thapar1, Mamoun Elawad1, Vijay Chakravarti4, Adam T Fox5 and Neil Shah1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Gastroenterology, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JH, UK

2 Centre for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia

3 Faculty of Medicine and Health and Life Science, University of Southampton, Southampton SO171BJ, UK

4 Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, Harlow, Essex CM20 1QX, UK

5 MRC & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma, Division of Asthma, Allergy and Lung Biology, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, London SE1 7EH UK

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World Allergy Organization Journal 2013, 6:13  doi:10.1186/1939-4551-6-13

Published: 6 August 2013



Food protein induced gastrointestinal allergies are difficult to characterise due to the delayed nature of this allergy and absence of simple diagnostic tests. Diagnosis is based on an allergy focused history which can be challenging and often yields ambiguous results. We therefore set out to describe a group of children with this delayed type allergy, to provide an overview on typical profile, symptoms and management strategies.


This retrospective analysis was performed at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Medical notes were included from 2002 – 2009 where a documented medical diagnosis of food protein induced gastrointestinal allergies was confirmed by an elimination diet with resolution of symptoms, followed by reintroduction with reoccurrence of symptoms. Age of onset of symptoms, diagnosis, current elimination diets and food elimination at time of diagnosis and co-morbidities were collected and parents were phoned again at the time of data collection to ascertain current allergy status.


Data from 437 children were analysis. The majority (67.7%) of children had an atopic family history and 41.5% had atopic dermatitis at an early age. The most common diagnosis included, non-IgE mediated gastrointestinal food allergy (n = 189) and allergic enterocolitis (n = 154) with symptoms of: vomiting (57.8%), back-arching and screaming (50%), constipation (44.6%), diarrhoea (81%), abdominal pain (89.9%), abdominal bloating (73.9%) and rectal bleeding (38.5%). The majority of patients were initially managed with a milk, soy, egg and wheat free diet (41.7%). At a median age of 8 years, 24.7% of children still required to eliminate some of the food allergens.


This large retrospective study on children with food induced gastrointestinal allergies highlights the variety of symptoms and treatment modalities used in these children. However, further prospective studies are required in this area of food allergy.