Parents, are you aware of any allergies that your child may have? Here’s an expert-approved guide on allergies in kids.
Allergies in kids
You’ve been looking forward to the day your baby hits the 6-month mark. Aside from hoping that her sleep pattern will start to improve (well, let’s see about that!), you are also ecstatic about introducing her to the world of solids!
But before you start fantasizing about the yummiest puree combinations that you can whip up for her, you should also be aware that there are certain types of food that may cause your tot to have an allergic reaction.
In fact, there are some parents who struggle with reflux issues in their babies even before their little ones start taking solids.
However, this is nothing to be overly alarmed about. According to SingHealth, allergies are quite common in children — and it has been reported that millions of people around the world are affected by various allergy-related conditions.
Is your baby hungry, tired…or simply having reflux issues after a milk feed?
A food allergy is an adverse immune response to a food protein. It is different to other negative reactions to food such as food intolerances, pharmacological reactions, and toxin-mediated reactions.
Here are some of the most common food allergens that triggers kids’ allergies:
Common food allergens
- Tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, cashews)
The protein in the food is the most common allergic component. These kinds of allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies a protein as harmful.
Food allergy can affect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and, in the most serious cases, the cardiovascular system.
Allergic reactions to food can range from mild to severe – in extreme cases, death can occur if immediate medical attention is not received. There is no cure for food allergies.
A severe reaction can include the potentially life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms usually occur within minutes to several hours after eating the food to which you are allergic.
Signs and symptoms of food allergy
As earlier mentioned, the symptoms of a food allergy can go from mild to severe and possible life-threatening.
- Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
- Eczema (a persistent dry, itchy rash)
- Redness of the skin or around the eyes
- Itchy mouth or ear canal
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Slight, dry cough
- Odd taste in mouth
- Obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Turning blue
- Drop in blood pressure (feeling faint, confused, weak, passing out)
- Loss of consciousness
- Chest pain
- A weak or “thread” pulse
- Sense of “impending doom”
A child may describe the sensations of a food allergy in a different way to an adult. Precious time is lost when adults do not immediately recognize that a reaction is occurring or don’t understand what a child is telling them.
Some children, especially very young ones, put their hands in their mouths or pull or scratch at their tongues in response to a reaction. Also, children’s voices may change (e.g., become hoarse or squeaky), and they may slur their words.
If you suspect your child is having an allergic reaction to food, seek medical attention immediately.
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How to diagnose allergies in kids
To better understand about the issue of allergies in kids and the remedies to soothe the symptoms, we asked Dr Low Kah Tzay, Paediatric Doctor at Anson International Paediatric & Child Development Clinic, Paragon Medical Centre about this important topic.
Q: What is the recommended age to send kids for a food allergy test?
Ask your doctor whether a food allergy test is necessary for your little one…
A: There is no specific age for kids to undergo an allergy test. Studies have reported that about 4-6% of children may have food allergies. At about 5 to 6 months old, parents should try introducing new foods to their baby every few days.
It is also advisable to keep track of symptoms associated to the foods and keep a food diary.
For mums who have concerns about a particular food, do take note of the food item and the relevant symptoms, and talk to your doctor about conducting a food allergy test.
If your baby is having reflux issues, your doctor might suggest a change in formula milk.
Q: For babies who tend to regurgitate their milk and have been prescribed medication for gastric and vomiting, could this be a case of cow’s milk allergy, soy allergy, or purely a reflux issue?
A: The symptoms sound like gastroesophageal reflux.
If the medications work, do keep up with it together with the current formula milk. But if the medications do not help to ease the symptoms, doctors may recommend to change to a formula with a thickener or a soy formula.
If the symptoms still persist and/or your child is not gaining weight well, your doctor may recommend a pH probe study.
Q: What would you advise a mum to do if her baby has sensitive skin with rashes that don’t seem to completely heal — even if she applies mild steroid cream and gives baby oral medication?
A: This condition sounds like atopic dermatitis. To ease the symptoms, it is recommended to use a soap-free bath cleanser and moisturise frequently. Be sure to choose a moisturiser that works well for your baby.
Atopic dermatitis is a recurring condition, so when there is a flare-up, do use steroid creams prescribed by the doctor sparingly.
What to do if your child has an allergy
If you know your child is allergic to certain foods, always be prepared with an effective food allergy treatment plan wherever you are, including when you are travelling. This could include:
- Strict avoidance of problem foods;
- Working with your doctor to develop a food allergy and anaphylaxis emergency care plan;
- Wearing emergency medical identification (e.g., bracelet, other jewelry) at all times;
- Informing your child’s school about the allergy and foods to avoid;
- Carrying your medication wherever you go;
- Taking your medication at the first sign of a reaction;
- Getting to an emergency room for follow-up treatment if you or your child has a severe reaction.
Allergy management in Singapore
According to Healthhub, if your child looks pale, is wheezing, and experiences trouble breathing and facial swelling, the child could be having anaphylaxis, which is more likely to happen to children with food allergies. Call 995 for an ambulance immediately.
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.