Thursday, 26 November 2009

Identifying And Avoiding Baby Food Allergies

IMPORTANT: If you suspect your child has a food allergy, consult a medical professional straight away. Always consult your child's doctor before introducing new foods to your baby. The information here is presented as a guide only. It is NOT intended to replace professional medical advice.

What is an allergy?
When your baby's immune system mistakes a harmless substance for a harmful one, an allergic reaction occurs. The immune system produces antibodies to protect your baby from future exposures. The first time your baby is exposed to the problem food - the allergen - there will be no symptoms. But on the second and subsequent exposures, the antibodies against the allergen cause an allergic reaction.

What is the difference between baby food allergies and digestive problems?
A digestive problem - or food intolerance - is not the same as a food allergy. An allergic reaction is a response by the immune system. A baby with food intolerance would have difficulties in digesting a certain type of food. This is caused by many things besides an allergen. Your baby could be lacking an enzyme to a particular food, for example.

How are baby food allergies diagnosed?
A true baby food allergy can only be diagnosed by a medical professional, such as your child's doctor or allergist. This is done by performing a skin prick test or blood test.

What symptoms should I be looking for?
When your baby digests foods and his intestine absorbs the nutrients, substances in the food may trigger an allergic reaction. Sometimes the reaction is in the intestine. This can cause your baby to experience cramps or diarrhea.

Or the reaction could be in the skin, which can lead to eczema. Other allergy symptoms include:

Excess gas/wind



Possible blood in stools


Stuffy or runny nose

Watery or red eyes


Also, be alert to the possibility of allergy-related ear infections. Allergies can cause congestion in the Eustachian tubes that connect the nose and ear. Fluid then collects in the middle ear, resulting in ear infections.
Rarely, babies can experience a very serious reaction known as allergic shock. This can cause welts on the skin, itching, lung spasms, or a sudden drop in blood pressure. There is also the chance of serious swelling in the throat and tongue, which can lead to choking. In this situation, you must seek medical help IMMEDIATELY.

Once again, if you feel your baby is showing any of these symptoms, or you have any concerns, discuss your worries with your child's doctor.

Is my baby at risk?
All parents need to be alert to possible baby food allergies or digestive problems, but the risk for some babies is higher ...
Do you suffer from a food allergy yourself?

Experts have identified that there is a genetic link to food allergies. So if you have an allergy, your baby is more likely to have one too, although not necessarily caused by the same allergen. If you and your partner have allergies, then the risk is higher still.

Was your baby premature?

Studies in the U.S. have suggested that if you introduce solids to your premature baby in the first 17 weeks, then you may increase the chance of your baby developing eczema. It was already felt that introducing solids before 4 months increased the risk of asthma and eczema for all babies. But these new studies seem to show that the risk is higher for premature babies.

Baby food allergies - will my child outgrow them?
Most young children do grow out of their allergies. But allergies to foods like nuts, fish and shellfish are often lifelong. Your doctor will be able to give you more advice on this.
If a food has caused a digestive problem in your child, it could be because the food was introduced too early. So it may be possible to re-introduce that food to your baby at a later date. Seek further advice from your child's doctor.

Baby food allergies affect around 8% of children. Although it's important to take the risk seriously, try to keep things in perspective. Introduce new foods carefully and watch for any reactions.
Then you can enjoy safely introducing your baby to the wonderful world of food.

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