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Fend off allergies with formula milk

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You may have heard that more and more children today seem to have allergies and food intolerances. Once allergy sets in, children and parents struggle to manage it and, this may go on for a long while. Therefore, prevention is always the best strategy as early exposure to food allergens may trigger sensitivity. Follow this third of four monthly video series for expert advice on formula intolerance and answer three simple questions to stand to win attractive prizes!

Breast milk is ideal for babies and young children. But after 6 months, you may want to consider a milk formula for your toddler. And, if you are concerned about preventing allergies and eczema due to family history or want to be assured, you should discuss this with your child’s doctor to help you understand the risk and make the most suitable choice.

In the third video of the series, Dr. Chiang Wen Chin and Dr. Lee Bee Wah, both consultant paediatricians at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, share what parents need to look out for when choosing the right formula milk for children at risk for allergies or eczema.

This video is supported by an unrestricted education grant from Abbott, the leader in paediatric nutrition*.

What you must know about allergy and hydrolysed formula.

1. If you and your spouse have eczema or some form of allergy, there's a high chance your child will have it, too.

A child can still develop allergies even if neither parent has allergies, but the risk of children developing allergies increases from 10%-15% to 30%-40% if either parent has some form of allergy. And, if both parents have allergies, that risk shoots up to 75%.

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Reference: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

2. Choosing the right formula milk may prevent or reduce allergies.

Both Dr. Lee and Dr. Chiang reinforce that “breast milk is best” for babies and young children as it may help prevent or decrease allergic sensitisation in early childhood. However, at times when it is not possible to breastfeed, making the right choice for your child’s formula milk can make a remarkable difference.

According to the Clinical Practice Guidelines on Food Allergy (2010) by the Ministry of Health in Singapore, hydrolysed formula milk may be recommended by doctors.

A milk allergy happens when the immune system mistakes the whole milk protein as something the body needs to fight off. In hydrolysed formula milk, the milk protein is broken down into smaller fragments, and these fragments are not recognised as whole proteins by the body. As a result, an allergic reaction becomes less likely and, so, these formulas are referred to as hypoallergenic.

The two experts share that clinical studies have shown that the use of certain hydrolysed formula milk varieties could even reduce the risk of developing eczema compared to standard milk formulas.

3. Opt for the right type of hydrolysed formula.

You would need to be careful when reading the ingredient lists of formula milk to choose the right one for your baby. Not just any type of hydrolysed formula would be beneficial in reducing risk for developing allergies.

What your child needs, according to research studies, say the two experts, is a partially hydrolysed whey formula or an extensively hydrolysed casein formula. These two have been found to have protective effects against allergies, particularly eczema. Those with a mix of whey and casein have not been found to be efficacious.

4. Partially hydrolysed whey formula does more than reduce allergies.

Studies say that the partially hydrolysed whey formula not only reduces the risk for eczema and allergy but, if supplemented with prebiotics, could also help children suffering from constipation.

And, if your poor baby has colic, and, constantly cries, leaving you clueless and helpless, a hydrolysed formula milk may help. Some studies point to the role of extensively hydrolysed milk formula in helping to manage excessive crying or hard-to-soothe behaviours in babies.

5. If your child has a risk of allergies, it is better to feed him partially hydrolysed whey formula than standard formula.

The partially hydrolysed whey formula, with the milk proteins broken down into smaller fragments, is especially designed to reduce the allergenic potential of cow's milk and, thus, the risk of allergies, particularly eczema. It is less likely to cause an allergic reaction in your child compared to standard formula which contains whole cow's milk protein. And, the experts assure that the partially hydrolysed whey formula is nutritionally adequate and safe.

Note: If your child already has cow milk protein allergy, please consult your child’s doctor.

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[*] Based on Nielsen Singapore Market Track for the Infant Milk Category, for the 12 month period ending December 2014. (Copyright © 2014, The Nielsen Company.)

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