Food protein-induced entercolitis syndrome (FPIES) is a type of food allergy that causes gastrointestinal symptoms in children. Here are four things that parents need to know about it.
What are the signs of FPIES?
FPIES is a delayed food allergy, so the symptoms of the allergy won't appear right away. Typical food allergies cause a reaction within minutes, but FPIES symptoms can take hours to show up. These symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Prolonged vomiting and diarrhea can lead to more serious problems like dehydration and low blood pressure, and eventually, shock.
How is FPIES diagnosed?
It's hard for doctors to diagnose FPIES. Typical food allergies can be diagnosed with tests that you're probably already familiar with such as skin prick tests or blood tests, but neither of those tests can be used to diagnose delayed food allergies.
Your child's pediatrician will need to ask your child questions about what foods they ate, their symptoms, and when their symptoms develop. They may be sent to an allergist to have an oral food challenge done. During this test, the allergist will feed your child a small amount of the food that seems to be responsible for FPIES, and then monitor them for signs of nausea and vomiting.
Is FPIES a lifelong condition?
It's possible for children to grow out of FPIES. Children with cow's milk-induced FPIES often grow out of it by the time they're between 18 and 24 months old. This may also be the case with other culprit foods, though there is insufficient data regarding the likelihood of this happening. If your child hasn't had a FPIES reaction in more than one year, their pediatrician may want them to do another food challenge to see if they've outgrown the allergy.
While you're waiting for them to outgrow the allergy, you need to keep them away from the allergens. Make sure to carefully read labels before feeding your child anything, and teach them not to accept food from friends or other adults due to the allergen risk.
How common is FPIES?
FPIES is a fairly rare type of food allergy. An Australian study found that only one in 10,000 children under 2 years of age suffered from FPIES in response to any food allergen. An Israeli study found that 0.34% of people suffered from FPIES after consuming cow milk. More studies need to be done to find out how common it is in other countries and in response to different types of food allergens.
If you think your child is suffering from food protein-induced entercolitis syndrome, you need to take them to their pediatrician right away.