All of us can worry about our baby’s health but how do you know if your baby has food allergies or intolerances?
Food allergies affect 6-8% of children, according to the British Dietetic Association. So could your newborn baby have allergies, and what should you do if your child has an allergic reaction?
Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts inappropriately against a protein within a food known as an allergen, with almost instant results.
Intolerances are an adverse reaction to food that occur when the body can’t digest it successfully. Effects can take up to 48 hours to appear.
The symptoms can be hard to spot.
Food allergies often develop between your baby’s first and second birthdays, partly because her immune system isn’t fully formed.
Vomiting and bad colic in your small baby can mean a food allergy. Asthma, hay fever and eczema may be other signs your baby could have a food allergy.
Reactions vary. The most frightening and severe allergic reaction is anaphylactic shock - one symptom of this is feeling your baby’s throat closing up.
There could also be:
In severe cases, if your baby goes into anaphylactic shock, take her straight to your local
hospital Accident & Emergency department, where adrenaline may be given by injection.
For non-severe cases, an over-the-counter antihistamine or trip to the GP should be fine. However, doctors aren’t always aware of food allergies and may just treat the symptoms rather than look for the cause.
If your child has eczema in the early stages of her life, there is a 25-50% chance she has a food allergy. Even if you don’t feed your child certain foods, you could be passing it on in your breast milk and this could be responsible.
Professor Gideon Lack, head of Paediatric Allergy at King’s College London, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trusts
Eating peanuts early in life may actually reduce the risk of developing peanut allergies, a House of Lords committee recently concluded. The Department of Health is considering the report but says its current advice remains unchanged: if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid peanuts and food containing peanuts but only if you or your partner has a history of hay fever, asthma or eczema.
Children under 3 should avoid peanuts, only if there’s a family history of allergies. If there’s no history, there’s no need to worry about peanuts.
“Cassie’s whole body became covered in a rash, and her ears and eyes swelled up. It was terrifying. We took her to hospital and she was given an antihistamine to control the reaction. Now we keep a detailed food diary and have to be very careful where we take Cassie – one restaurant has already made a mistake.
“I can’t see how she can go to nursery and I think she will have to be home educated. I’ve worked in childcare for 20 years and have seen mistakes happen.”
Tanya, 30, mum to Cassie, 2
“Within minutes of her finishing it, a rash appeared on her mouth. She was sick and, when I undressed her, she was covered in what looked like nettle rash. I panicked, thinking it was meningitis until I called the doctor. Milly was able to started eating dairy at 18 months and now loves it.”
Jane, 25, mum to Milly 3 and Sam, 19 months
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