Effective Checklists For a Smooth Real Estate Purchase Cycle Part 1


One of the most important aspects in a real estate cycle is to have a clear understanding of your finances. It is important for you and the real estate agency to know what your speculated budget for an investment is, be it your personal finances or a mortgage. This will help you to have a clear and precise goal to follow when it comes to investment.

Make a note of how much funds you have with you personally and inquire on how much more you can get from a mortgage house if required. If you do not have any personal funding, try inquiring about your eligibility to apply for a mortgage loan and how much you are eligible for. Different mortgage houses have different rate of interests and different maximum amounts they can fund depending on various factors like your job or business or income or your assets. Many mortgage houses are always happy to help you with this information when contacted, provided you give them complete details of your overall income.

Another way to avoid confusing yourself and wasting precious time by contacting multiple banks and getting multiple information on discounts, offers, interest rates etc. is to take consultation from the real estate agency you are dealing with. Almost all the real estate agencies have a good rapport and reputation with mortgage houses within a speculated area, which gives them a good hold on getting all the necessary funds and approval in minimal time and cost provided all the required documents meet their eligibility criteria.


Once you have decided your budget, it’s time to plan your investment. You will need to determine what kind of returns you are expecting out of this investment. Ask yourself some simple questions like; are you renting/buying the property for personal or commercial use? What kind of returns are you expecting out of the investment?

Having a plan helps you determine your future returns on the investment more precisely and helps you decide the way you can channelize your funds. Make a note of all the fund utilization from your budget during the purchase cycle, so you get a clear understanding on where your funds are going while you are actually buying/renting a property. This will enable you to take quick decisions during critical stages of the purchase cycle based on the left over budget.

It is also imperative that you get a clear understanding on how much more you need to spend apart from the actual price of the property. Hence, do not hesitate to ask your real estate agent or the owner about expenses other than the value of the property. Accounting for such expenses gives you a clear understanding on deciding your reserve budget out of your finances or a backup budget. It is also advised that you always speak to your real estate agent regarding your investment plans. After all, they have good amount of experience in the real estate field and they may be able to help you with some more ideas on investment which you may sometimes feel is better. This will also help them give you precise options on properties that suit your needs and help you achieve your desired goal.


When it comes to real estate investment or any other investment, it’s important that we consider multiple options by doing some well sort out research.

Venturing and looking for different real estate options helps you determine the current and the future status of your investment. You will be able to analyze your return on investment in a much better way. Depending on your budget and plan, shortlist your investment options to better suit your needs and the results that you are expecting.

The real estate agents that you deal with, will be able to provide you a precise knowledge and forecast on what kind of return on investment you can expect from a purchase. They can help you compare the prices and demands of the units depending on the geographical location, and specify which unit can yield you better returns.

Commercial Real Estate Agency – How to Use Signboards to Build Your Business and Market Share

When you sell or lease commercial real estate, the signboard becomes an extremely important part of your marketing process. The greater the number of signboards that you can place on the good quality properties in your sales territory, you will usually find that the enquiry and new listings will be easier to achieve. Your telephone will ring more frequently with fresh new enquiries for properties.

Property owners want to deal with the agent that has the largest slice of the local property market. They want the agent that has the biggest database and attracting the most enquiries from other properties. Time on market today can be quite frustrating so the property owners and the business proprietors do not want to experiment with average agencies with low market profile.

So the signboard is a key part of your business profile and market penetration. On this basis the signboard should feature three things:

  • Your name and contact details for any inquiry
  • Significant and clear branding of your real estate office as specialists in the area
  • Details of the property and the improvements to attract the target audience that you need

It all comes down to the perception of the marketplace. Signboards create the positive perception with the local businesses and property owners that you are the most active real estate agent in the area; the signboards also create ongoing enquiry at low cost and that is the foundation of a good database.

Here are some strategies to help you with your signboard process:

  1. Identify the main roads in your area, and get signboards on those roads and intersections wherever possible.
  2. Ideally you should be seeking exclusive or sole agencies for all your listings. In such case the signboard should be specially designed and placed. Vendor paid advertising should compensate for the cost of this special signboard.
  3. Research the rules and regulations that apply to the placement of signboards on properties for sale or lease. Municipal councils will have restrictions that you must comply with.
  4. Any openly listed properties should also get a signboard where possible, although those signboards will be ordinary in type, size, and cost. Invariably there will usually be a number of signs from different agencies on each property that is open listed. Many signboards placed on the one property will cheapen the marketing process for the property owner, but that is their choice. Still put your sign on your open listings.
  5. Undertake a signboard count in your territory at least once every two weeks. As part of that process you should be identifying the number of signboards in the territory and your percentage of those signboards. Other agent’s signboards on exclusive listings should be tracked for listing expiry. Time on market today can be lengthy and therefore the exclusive listings will commonly expire and become available for other agents to chase.
  6. Do a regular signboard survey of your listings to ensure that the signs are not damaged, destroyed, or covered in graffiti. In some sales territories and real estate markets, it is not unusual for other agents to deface or remove the signboards of successful agents. There are strategies around this problem such as the fixing process for the signboard, the quality of the signboard, and the proximity of the signboard to public access. If you are experiencing this problem, you will need to survey your signboards on a weekly basis to stay on top of the issue. Damaged signboards that are not replaced create a negative impression for your business and the property listing; in some cases other agents would like that.
  7. Only put a signboard on properties where you have a legally signed and accepted agency appointment. To do otherwise is foolish and will get you into trouble.
  8. When you sell or lease a property, get a sticker put on the board to show the status of the listing. Your success in the listing should be displayed to the local area; it will encourage others to talk to you even after the sale or lease processes are completed.

The property signboard is a silent but effective marketing tool. It has local area impact and it is as important as listing the property on the Internet today. Signboards are a key process to your market dominance.

When the signboard is placed on the property, it is the time to contact all the adjacent property owners and business proprietors. It is quite likely that they will want to talk about the listed property; so the signboard becomes the catalyst for prospecting.

The same contact process applies to the signboards of other agents. Any other agents signboard placed in your territory will give you reason to talk to the adjacent property owners and business proprietors near that board. Systematic questioning is part of the prospecting process and the way that you can get your database to grow.

Call Capture is Turning Good Real Estate Agencies Into Great Businesses

Call capture is one of the trade secrets that many successful real estate agencies use, and can provide the distinction between struggling businesses and booming operations. Simply put, call capture can be defined as any telephone-based technology that is used to obtain personal information from potential clients. The type of information generally gathered is the client’s name, address, and phone number. Merely gathering the information, however, is not enough. Business owners must take steps to ensure that they are using the information resourcefully to build a client base which can generate leads used later on. Call capture can provide a boost to real estate agents by providing a client base filled with possible leads.

The first way an agent can start using call capture to increase business is by obtaining a capture phone number. These are generally toll free numbers and include multiple extensions in which to store information that can retrieved by the caller. They are then placed in a variety of places to help generate business. Often times, the agent will place the number on the sign-riders that many individuals recognize from its placement next to a “For Sale” sign outside a house on the market. Calling the number will provide the potential client with a number of options like leaving a voicemail, listening to a description of the house, or hanging up.

Another option provided is the ability to transfer directly to the agent. But what if the prospect hangs up? Without call capture, the real estate agent would not be aware of the potential clients that expressed interest by dialing the phone number. However, by utilizing the features of call capture, the real estate agent is actually notified every time anyone makes an inquiry by dialing the phone number listed on the sign. Additionally, the agent receives details on the client’s name, address, the phone number they called from, as well as the property they were interested in. These records can then be added into a database of potential clients, which can lead to higher conversion rates.

Even if the client does not pursue the original house listed, the prospect’s interest in buying a new house still acts as a lead, as the real estate agent might be able to find a better match for them. This also eliminates the frustration of cold calling, as every person in the database has expressed some interest in the agent’s services. A more accurate term would be warm or even hot calling, because the real estate leads are directed straight to the agent, reducing costs.

Further, there are minimal legality issues associated with this type of calling due to the fact that “Do Not Call” laws apply differently to returning calls to leads captured by this kind of system than traditional telemarketing rules. In telemarketing, an associate will cold-call businesses or residences to generate sales for their company. This information is stored in a database and displays the vendor ID, address, phone number, and name. In these instances the person being called most likely has never contacted the company on whose behalf the telemarketer is calling on. With call capture, because the potential client made the first contact with the agent when they called to get more information about their services or property, agents can then legally contact them for 90 days even if they are on the Do Not Call List (unless they specifically ask them not to call them back).

Let Market Updates Boost Your Client Contact Success in a Commercial Real Estate Agency

In commercial real estate agency today, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with your clients and prospects. Doing so in a relevant way will help you with building market share and listing opportunities.

Given that we regularly prospect as part of our business activities, providing market updates will help you with connecting with clients and prospects. Relevance and fresh information are the keys to the process.

As the year progresses, there will always be changes in the local property market. Those changes are of interest to the local property investors, business owners, tenants, and property developers that you work with. In many respects, they do not have the same sources of information that you have, and they are likely to be less informed when it comes to current prices and rentals relating to commercial property.

Capturing the latest information from sales and leasing activity will help you build relevance with the clients and contacts that you work with. Up to date information will always be of interest and for use in your meetings, prospecting, and client updates.

Here are some ideas to help you with providing high quality market updates:

  1. The information that you provide from the market will always be valuable. That being said, it does need to attract the attention of the reader. Interpret the prices, rentals, occupancy rates, and capitalisation rates into trends that can be graphed. The visual approach will attract attention. The best graphing model to use with trending is a bar chart. It is very suitable for our industry. You can get some simple graphing packages from the Internet which will allow you to display numbers and figures relating to property trends. In a very basic way, you can also do the same thing using an excel spreadsheet and set up the graphing alternatives from the spreadsheet.
  2. Use plenty of photographs in your marketing material relating to the local area. In saying that, the photographs should be of reasonable quality taken at an attractive angle. Those photographs may be of properties that you have sold, leased, or developed.
  3. Tell stories about the market and also the clients that you have served. As part of that process, you do need to have the consent of the property owners and clients at the centre of the story. Testimonials will always help send the right message as will positive stories from recent sales and leasing activity.
  4. To freshen up your marketing content, you can use professionally taken stock photographs that connects to your feature story or article. The stock photographs can be purchased and downloaded across the Internet so that you do not infringe any copyright ownership rights.
  5. Find a local copywriting specialist that can produce an interesting article from the property market on a weekly basis for you.

Regular market updates will help identify and support you as an industry specialist in commercial property. Consolidate all of your marketing activity into specific communications processes that reach the prospects and clients that you work with. That will normally involve emails, database, blogs, and social media.

Indestructable Focus in Commercial Real Estate Agency Brings Results Today

In commercial real estate agency we are the best people to bring in the results for the clients that we serve. Whilst your office and your market are part of that process, the fact of the matter is that your success as an agent is largely governed by your actions and focus. Clients want to work with confident and top agents that dominate the market.

When the property market is slow or tough, most ordinary salespeople will say that there is little going on for them and that the deals are impossible to do. They will blame everyone and everything but themselves.

The fact of the matter is that your focus and your systems are really critical in commercial real estate agency. If you want to get ahead in your local area, take a solid look at what you are doing now in marketing and what could be done better.

Marketing yourself is a critical part of commercial real estate agency. Every day it is a matter of reaching out to new people that you have not connected with before.

Here are some other points of focus that can help your career as a commercial real estate agent. Check out the list to see if there is anything that you could do better.

  1. Know your specialty property type and local area comprehensively. It is surprising just how many people will quote numbers and results to you about other property locally. Invariably a lot of that information is hearsay.
  2. Believe in yourself and your ability to be a top commercial real estate agent. Certainly the concept is obvious, but a good degree of self-belief and focus takes time to bring this about.
  3. Control how you pitch, present, and negotiate. Every property listing can be a challenge given that the differences are always going to stretch your property skills. Practice your dialogue so you can convert more listings with the right people.
  4. Do not lose control or your temper for any reason. Some of the clients and prospects that we deal with are not the easiest people to work for or with. They will ‘push your buttons’ simply to get an advantage in negotiation. Many of the business people that we deal with are expert negotiators and understand that if they can ‘throw you off the tracks in the negotiation’ they are likely to get an advantage.
  5. Do the hard stuff first every day. We get our fair share of difficult things to do. Prospecting and cold calling is one of them. Always do the hard personal stuff every day, first thing.
  6. Develop willpower as you will need plenty of it to keep you on the right track and focus. Top agents stay on track regardless of things that surround them.
  7. Keep fit mentally and physically so you can do your best every day. Working hours for most of us are 7am to 7pm. It’s a long day and it contains many challenging things that will stretch your abilities. Stay fit so you can create the best outcomes.
  8. Use a time management system to control the things that you must do. Many agents struggle with ‘unimportant’ stuff. You are the only person that can take your career steps forward. Make sure those steps are the right ones.
  9. Grow your database every day with new people. This requires a prospecting mindset and should be one of the first things that you do every day.

Give me one really focused and driven commercial real estate agent. They are better than 10 ordinary ones.

What You Should Know About Dog Food Allergies

If you think that humans are the only ones getting allergies, think again. Dogs are also vulnerable to allergies from the food that we give them. You may not notice it but they really do have their own share of allergies. So it is very important that you understand just what types of food can give your dog allergies so you can stop giving it to them.

The problem with dog allergies is that we tend to be unaware when they are having allergies. For one thing, they cannot tell us they are itching all over. So what we should do is to observe the behaviors of our dogs after eating. It will help us identify if your dog is already having a reaction to the food that he took in.

So how do you go about identifying dog food allergies?

Well, food is the third main cause of dog allergies. The first is flea bite followed by inhalant allergies. 20% percent of all scratching and itching in dogs are caused by foods.

There is still a long way to go in terms of having antibodies for dogs against allergies. We still have to do research as to what happen inside a dog’s digestive track. What we know is that we know how to deal with allergies once it happens and we know how to relieve a dog. However, we still do not have vaccinations or some other form that would help our pets.

Dog allergies can occur in every breed and in every age bracket. However, those that have a history of food allergies generally possess other kinds of allergies.

Dogs are susceptible to allergies from all kinds of food but usually the allergies are found in meats like beef, chicken, fish and lamb. Other foods like dairy products, eggs, wheat and corn are also sources of allergies. So take note of these so that you can make sure that you are not giving your pet food that could trigger an allergy in them.

Normally, dogs are not allergic to food they do not encounter. Dogs tend to develop allergies to the foods they usually eat.

So what are the usual symptoms that your pet is having allergies?

The first signs that your dog is having an allergy are itchiness of the skin near the face, feet, legs, ears and the anus. They can also experience ear infections, hair loss, hot spots and infections coming from antibiotics.

The main problem however is that symptoms of food allergies are very difficult to distinguish from other types of allergies because the signs are the same.

Now that you have discovered that your pet has a food allergy, how do you go about handling it?

To determine what food your dog is allergic to, you need to utilize a food trial test. This is a program that starts by eliminating external sources of foods from your dog’s diet. Examples of ingredients that should be removed are treats, rawhides, medications with flavors and many more.

Have them on a protein heavy diet based on your vet’s prescription. This diet will last for 12 weeks after which you will reintroduce their normal diet. If their allergies continue you can now determine what foods are causing their allergies.

Food Allergy in Infants and Young Children

Food allergy is common in infant and young children. It can be frustrating for parents – colicky infants, vomiting, constipation and not tolerating formula or sometimes even breast milk. And for the child, the impact is even more so – failure to thrive is common, which may lead to developmental delay as poor nutrient intake impairs achievement of developmental milestones. Thus, it is important for parents and pediatrician to diagnose food allergy in a timely manner to avoid long-term detrimental outcomes. The good news is most of these allergies in young children will resolve on its own by 4-5 years of age.

Hidden food allergy or intolerances are also common and difficult to identify. Our common perception of food allergy is someone who is allergic to seafood, and ate something with shrimp, and within minutes reacted with full body hives, facial swelling, itching mouth and throat, etc.

However, these are not what we’re seeing in children with hidden allergies or intolerances. Reactions to food intolerance are delayed and more subtle. Therefore, they are frequently ignored or dismissed. Food intolerance and food allergy shares many similar signs and symptoms. However, they are very different physiologically.


Food allergy triggers an immediate immune response, usually involving the immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE-mediated response activates a cascade of systemic reactions, involving multiple organ systems. That is why this is the more severe form food intolerance. Fatal peanut allergy falls into this category. Usually a tiny amount of the offending food can cause an immediate and severe reaction, and may sometimes lead to anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening emergency.

An anaphylaxis is characterized by systemic responses, such as difficulty breathing due to swelling of airway, hives along with itching, flushed or pale skin, weak and rapid pulse, dangerously low blood pressure, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness or fainting.

An anaphylactic event requires emergent medical treatment, and delay of treatment may result in death. People with severe food allergies are usually prescribed and “epi” epinephrine pen that they carry around in case they consume or come in contact with their allergen by accident.

Food intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve the immune system, and reaction also comes on a lot slower – usually after two hours of ingestion of food, and sometimes up to 48 hours with more subtle presentation. Unlike food allergy, an individual usually is able to tolerate a small amount of the offending foods without much adverse effect.

Symptoms of food intolerance are generally less serious, less obvious and appear very subtly and slowly. That’s why the trouble food is seldom identified. Some common signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhea, asthma, eczema (atopic dermatitis), etc. Food intolerances may also result in behavioral symptoms frequently seen in ADHD and autism.

Unlike food allergy, food intolerances are not detected by RAST test or skin prick tests, as both these test for IgE circulating in the blood. Reactions in food intolerance are not IgE-mediated. It may be the result of activation of IgG antibodies or other causes.

Once the offending food is identified, it should be avoided completely, especially the reaction is an IgE-mediated reaction. Food allergies are common in the first years of life. With every repeated exposure to the offending food, the immune system becomes better in attacking that allergen, which means the response will become more and more intense with each repeated exposure. Children usually outgrow their allergies by 4 or 5 years of age. However, repeat exposure may prevent or delay the time to outgrow the allergy.

A Guide to Overcome and Recover From a Food Allergy

The book ‘The Food Allergy Survival Guide’ includes the following information related to the food allergy:

• Brief description on the food allergy topic
• Foods that are mandatory to eat
• Foods that can be avoided
• Alternatives of the avoided food.
• Food allergy treatments
• Incredible testimonial by the author and reviews of the readers
• Useful information and beneficial tips relevant to the allergy disease for their valued readers

Subsequently, adults and kid are vulnerable to different kinds of foods. Adults are more susceptible to allergies by eating foods like:

• Eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and fish.

Secondly, kids are most affected by consuming foods like:
• Peanuts, milks and eggs.

In order to recover fast from food allergy, one should have beforehand knowledge of the particular allergy and take proper measures to overcome the disease. Following types of food allergies are discussed in the book for further guidance:

• Egg Allergy
• Nut Allergy
• Milk Allergy

Egg Allergy

• People those are targeted by such egg related allergies are recommended not eating foods that contains egg yolk and egg white as ingredients.
• Rather they are advised to include egg substitute in their diets such as tapioca, apple sauce and starch from potatoes.
• Egg Allergy merely starts at the age of infancy and continues till the age of five to six years.
• Children with mild egg allergy problem should not hesitate eating egg in other forms such cake, muffins, pastries etc. But this might give rise to the severe allergic difficulties in the later age.

Nut Allergy

• For some people, nuts are also allergy triggers.
• Nut allergy should not be confused with peanut allergy.
• Peanut is actually not a nut, but the protein present in its nut is similar to that of tree nut, therefore people who are inflicted to peanut allergy, can be susceptible to nut allergy.
• Protein in both the categories is considered harmful for the body.
• Allergic reaction in both cases results in addition of histamine in the body.
• This would result in the following complications:

i. Wheezing
ii. Trouble breathing
iii. Throat tightness
iv. Red spots etc.

• Foods manufactured from soy nut can play a vital role in absence of tree nuts in an individual’s diet.
• Soy nut is a derivative of soya bean, which undergoes baking and soaking process for its crunchy effect and taste.

Milk Allergy:

• When on assimilation of proteins from animal milk results in the disorder of an immune system of a human being, then that individual is subjected to milk allergy. For such people, milk is not recommended.
• Nutritional gap can be filled by taking soy milk or rice milk.
• Milk allergy may also cause infections such as anaphylaxis, which worsens within the short span of time if not treated. It can be a severe threat to life if not diagnosed or treated properly.
• Symptoms of anaphylaxis are painful breathing, light-headed etc.
• Milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance, which is related to digestive system; where as milk allergy is a complication regarding immune system.

All and all, this guide is all about selective eating, which ensures safe and healthy life. Selective eating can be beneficial to you in order to recover from devastating allergic reactions occurring in your body. It is your one step towards healthy survival.

Food Allergy In Cats – Symptoms, Treatments And Diagnosis

Not only humans’ Even animals are affected by food allergy. It mainly affects cars and is rated among the main causes of atopy, flea bite allergies. Cats usually develop allergies from constantly fed kind of foods.

Often cats are sensitive to a certain type of food ingredient. So, an antibody in their intestinal tracts responds, leading to food allergy. Among all other type of allergies, with a 10% ratio allergies caused by food are more prone to cats.

Food allergies affect male, neutered cats and also female ones. It is also a misconception connecting specific breed of cats to allergies caused by food. This condition can initially create symptoms for cats from four months young to eleven years old. But majority of food allergy cases occur between 3- 6 years in cats. These cats are also in connection with inhalant allergies.

The main difference between food intolerance and food allergy should be learned to correctly manage allergy in cats. Allergy caused by food are taken as true allergies revealing symptoms like itching and skin problems associated with feline and canine allergies. Incase diarrhea or vomiting happens without creating allergic responses, it means that it’s only intolerance of food. Cat food intolerance is similar to a human having a stomach ache or diarrhea as a result of consuming spicy food or eating food that is fried. By utilizing foods food intolerance and allergies can be prevented. This doesn’t offend the agents.

Many studies reveal that few ingredients of food are the main causes of allergies when compared to the rest. The main common causes in cats are dairy products, fish and beef. Many pet owners would have observed that the following ones are the main ingredients found in foods that are consumed by the cat. Even though few proteins are more antigenic, it still comes in similar forms. So, this reaction depends mostly on the quantity of exposure.

The symptoms of this allergy in cats are most likely the same to most kinds of allergies. But the major ones are excessive scratching, hair loss, military dermatitis and itchy skin. For pet owners it is difficult to distinguish cars that suffer from atopy or food allergy by physical signs. But, they must suspect food allergy if these symptoms begin to take place during winter or through out the year and the cats fail to respond to antihistamine or steroid treatment.

When you figure out the symptoms of different allergies in cats it is very simple to diagnose the allergy. Symptoms of food allergy are similar to that of bacterial, notoedric mange, hypersensitivity to intestinal parasites, seborrhea and yeast infections.

It is necessary to carry out food trials. Elimination and provocative testing diets could be done. One should feed the cat with foods that has carbohydrates, proteins for 11 – 12 weeks without any treats. A typical instance is potato and venison or potato and duck. These foods are commercially available in the market or could be homemade. Young and growing cats have special nutritional needs. Diets made at home containing a carbohydrate and a protein eliminating multivitamins and fatty acids could be fed for 12 weeks. Food trials for kitten are carried out by giving a commercially balanced diet. After few weeks, feed the cat with previous food that they once have consumed. In case the symptoms are shown then it’s surely food allergy. Others perform blood testing which is not accurate when compared to trials (food).

Stop! My Kid Can’t Eat That: Food Allergies In Children

In the middle of the night in Atlanta, I got a frantic call from my daughter in Chicago. “Daddy, I’m so sorry to wake you, but Michael just ate a little piece of cashew and now his face is swollen and he’s breaking out in a rash all over his body.” Once I realized that her voice wasn’t just part of some bad dream, I gave my doctor’s orders: “Give him Benadryl and take him to the emergency room immediately!”

As a board-certified allergist for 25 years, I recognized that my grandson was having a potentially serious allergic reaction and that his symptoms could get worse-much worse. Fortunately, by the time they arrived at the hospital, the swelling had subsided and his hives had resolved.

Even though my grandson’s diagnosis was easy to make, food allergies can be one of the most frustrating and complex allergy issues facing physicians, patients, and families. If you consider the unlimited number of foods and additives we consume today, the variable time between ingestion and allergic reaction, and the varied and often-subtle symptoms, it seems miraculous when an allergy-triggering food is actually identified.

Food Allergies In Children: A Disturbing Trend

Ask anyone who raised children 25 years ago if they ever heard of food allergies back then, and the likely answer will be no. Yet today, who doesn’t know a child-if not several kids-who have severe food allergies? Pediatricians and allergists are observing first-hand that food allergies in infants and children have increased to epidemic proportions over the last few decades. Studies have shown that in the under-18 age group, the prevalence of reported food allergies increased 18% between 1997 and 2007. Approximately 4% of Americans are estimated to have food allergies. That’s more than 12 million individuals. The prevalence of food allergies is even higher-6% to 8%-in infants and young children under three years old.

Any type of food can trigger an outbreak, yet the “Big 8″ account for more than 90% of all cases: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Sesame is quickly becoming another common cause of allergies, especially in those with Mediterranean diets. The good news is that the incidence of documented food allergies decreases with age, probably due to the development of tolerance in children allergic to milk, wheat, soy, and eggs. Of the 2.5% of children allergic to milk, approximately 80% will “outgrow” their allergy by age five. Kids with peanut or tree nut allergies aren’t as lucky: Recent studies have shown that only about 10% to 20% of children will lose their allergy as they age.

Pediatric Food Allergies: Instantaneous Outbreak Of the two main types of allergies, the “immediate hypersensitivity reaction” gets the most hype, probably because you can see the symptoms (whether it’s hives or swelling) right away. The other kind is aptly named “delayed hypersensitivity reaction.” Otherwise known as IgE-mediated, the immediate allergic reaction is the best understood and the most easily diagnosed. Yet it can also be the most serious. When the proteins in an allergenic food come in contact with an IgE antibody (located in the skin, gut, and airways, or in the blood), a cascade of cellular events occurs resulting in the release of histamine and a multitude of other chemical mediators. The rapid release of the histamine and other chemicals is what causes the allergic reaction. The outbreak, which generally occurs within minutes of ingestion, can be relatively mild or severe. Moderate symptoms might include a rash, generalized itching and redness of the skin, facial or eyelid swelling, abdominal cramping, vomiting and/or diarrhea. These can be treated with a quick-acting antihistamine and tend to run their course over a few minutes to hours. The most severe reaction is called anaphylaxis, which can occur instantaneously or a few minutes after ingestion. As a general rule, the quicker the onset of symptoms, the more serious the reaction is likely to be. Symptoms of anaphylaxis might include those mentioned above, but can also rapidly progress to breathing difficulties and chest tightness (due to bronchial constriction and swelling of the airways), a drop in blood pressure leading to shock-and even death. Epinephrine (also known as adrenalin), which is available for self-injection in the form of an Epipen and other auto-injectors, must be given immediately and repeated if necessary. Foods that commonly cause severe reactions include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, sesame seeds, milk, and eggs. The most serious reaction I ever witnessed resulted from the ingestion of a single pine nut. That tiny seed (it’s not really a nut) transformed a healthy teenager into a critically ill patient within a matter of minutes. Fortunately, the patient recovered, but anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated immediately and aggressively. If your child has ever had an immediate allergic reaction to a food, you should consult with a board-certified allergist. To identify or confirm the symptom-triggering food, the allergist will likely give a few tests, either through the skin or blood. From there, you and your allergist can come up with a plan to eliminate the food from your child’s diet and discuss prevention and management of future reactions.

Delayed Allergic Reactions: Subtle Yet Elusive

While less dangerous in terms of one’s immediate health, the “delayed allergic reaction” can be much more difficult to diagnose and treat. As the name implies, it can take hours or even days after ingestion for the symptoms to show up, making it harder to establish a cause-and- effect relationship. The typical symptoms can involve several organ systems and may be quite subtle in their presentation. In addition to the classic allergy symptoms (think nasal congestion, a runny nose, and a rash), delayed reactions may also present with very vague and nonspecific symptoms, such as frequent headaches, recurrent or chronic abdominal pain, fatigue and lethargy, irritability, dark circles under the eyes, leg pains, and recurrent ear or sinus infections.

Part of the difficulty in diagnosing these food reactions is that there’s no reliable allergy test that can accurately identify or predict a delayed outbreak. Skin testing and blood tests aren’t helpful because they only measure the IgE antibody, which is responsible for immediate reactions. Research has not yet identified the antibody or antibodies responsible for delayed reactions, although there has been considerable interest and research in the possible role of the IgG antibody. Blood tests to measure this antibody are available, but its reliability as a predictor of delayed allergy has not yet been established.

So how can you figure out if your child’s symptoms are the result of something he or she is eating? The best method we have right now is to eliminate the suspected food (or drink) from your kid’s diet for four weeks. If you notice a significant improvement in symptoms, you’re ready for the challenge phase: Serve the food in question for several days straight. If the symptoms start recurring, you can be relatively sure that a cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Even after avoiding the food culprit, it can still take a few weeks for symptoms to completely disappear, so be patient.

By far, milk and other dairy products are the most common cause of this type of reaction. Over the years, many teenagers have walked into my office with their parents complaining about stomach discomfort and profound tiredness. By the time they’ve come to see me, they’ve usually been through various tests and have seen multiple physicians, including gastroenterologists, and have often been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. After hearing about their saga and symptoms-and seeing the dark circles under their eyes and their pale, sallow complexion-I can usually tell that it’s a dairy allergy. Fortunately, many responded dramatically to a few weeks off of milk. They couldn’t believe that the innocent act of drinking milk and eating dairy products could make them feel so ill-and that avoiding these products could restore their good health and vitality in such a short time.