We take a look at how you can test for allergies in your children, which foods to avoid, and when to seek medical attention.
When it comes to allergies, there is good and bad news. The bad news is that surveys show that allergies are on the increase. Food allergies generally begin in childhood, from under 18 months, and can trigger a wide range of symptoms. With so many symptoms that could have other causes, it’s not always clear that food is to blame. Reactions may occur immediately after eating a specific food, or may be delayed for hours or even days.
The good news is that children usually outgrow allergies to foods like milk and egg (by ages four to six in half of the cases). It’s important that you follow up with checks. Allergy to nuts, fish, and shellfish, however, are not commonly outgrown.
An allergic reaction generally occurs when the immune system wrongly perceives a harmless substance, such as a particular food, as a threat, and produces lots of antibodies in the blood, which can cause or contribute to various conditions such as eczema, hay fever, asthma, and diarrhoea. Allergic reactions can range from mild to very serious.
There’s a lot of anxiety about food allergies these day. However, unless there’s a family history of allergy, food allergies are quite rare. The risk of a child developing an allergic disorder more than doubles if there’s a family history of atopic disease (e.g.: asthma, eczema or hay fever). In this case, breastfeeding for at least four to six months seems to offer some protection. Bear in mind that if you’re breastfeeding, eating these high-risk foods, also known as allergens, may be transmitted through your breastmilk.
Start weaning with low-allergen foods
If you’re worried about allergies, don’t introduce any foods to your child that may cause an allergy before the age of six months at the earliest. Start weaning him with low-allergen foods like baby rice, root vegetables, apples and pears. If there’s a family history of allergy to a particular food, avoid that food until your child is at least one year old. However, don’t remove key foods from your child’s diet without first consulting a doctor.