Thursday, 26 June 2008

Food Allergies in babies

What causes Food Allergy?

Food allergies are surprisingly rare and happen when a harmless food is wrongly interpreted by the immune system as being harmful. The symptoms of allergy (such as tingling lips, and rashes) are due to the efforts of the immune system in tackling the food. In some cases the reaction is severe, and affected individuals must avoid the problem food at all cost.

The family trait
It is just a sad fact that some families are more prone to food allergies and intolerances than others these families are categorised as a topic. This means they are more likely to develop conditions such as asthma or eczema. However, being in an atopic family doesn’t automatically mean that your baby will be affected, but it does mean that the risk of developing an allergy is greater.

The government guidelines suggest that if you have allergies in your family that you:
Breast feed for six months or longer
Wait until your baby is at least 6 months before introducing foods which commonly cause allergy (cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, nuts and shellfish)
The most common allergy in babies is milk allergy (understandably as that is all they eat)

Common symptoms of milk allergy in babies
The symptoms of cow's milk protein allergy will generally appear within the first few months of life. A baby can experience symptoms either very quickly after feeding (rapid onset) or not until 7 to 10 days after consuming the cows milk protein (slower onset).The slower-onset reaction is more common.

Symptoms of slower onset may include loose stools (possibly containing blood), vomiting, gagging, refusing food, irritability or colic, and skin rashes. This type of reaction is more difficult to diagnose because the same symptoms may occur with other health conditions. Most children will outgrow this form of allergy by 2 years of age.

Rapid-onset reactions as the name suggests come on suddenly with symptoms that can include irritability, vomiting, wheezing, swelling, hives, other itchy bumps on the skin, and bloody diarrhoea. In rare cases, a potentially severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur and affect the baby's skin, stomach, breathing, and blood pressure. Anaphylaxis is more common in other food allergies than in a milk allergy. If you feel that your child has this type of allergy seek medical help immediately

Diagnosing a Milk Allergy
If you suspect that your infant is allergic to milk, call your baby's doctor. The doctor will likely ask about any family history of allergies or food intolerance and then do a physical exam. There's no single lab test to accurately diagnose a milk allergy, so your doctor might order several tests to make the diagnosis and rule out any other health problems. In addition to a stool test and a blood test, the doctor may order an allergy skin test, in which a small amount of the milk protein in inserted just under the surface of the child's skin with a needle. The doctor may also request an oral challenge test. After you stop feeding your baby milk for about a week, the doctor will have the infant consume milk, then wait for a few hours to watch for any allergic reaction.

Treating a Milk Allergy
If your baby has a milk allergy and you are breastfeeding, it's important to restrict the amount of dairy products that you ingest because the milk protein that's causing the allergic reaction can cross into your breast milk.

If you using a formula to feed your baby, your doctor may advise you to switch to a soy protein-based formula. If your baby can't tolerate soy, the doctor may have you switch to a hypoallergenic formula.

If you suspect your baby has a food intolerance or allergy, talk to your doctor straight away.