This week is World Allergy Week and unfortunately, allergies can affect both adults and children alike. According to Allergy UK a staggering 44% of adults in the UK are affected by one or more allergic reactions. Allergies affect babies and children too and it can be worrying for a parent to witness an allergic reaction. The symptoms can present themselves in several ways and it can be difficult at times to identify what it is causing the allergy. Depending on the allergy, symptoms can include sickness and diarrhoea, itchy eyes or throat, red rash and swollen lips and eyes. It is recommended that you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months as this can help protect your baby against some illnesses as well as some allergies. However even if you do breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months, some babies may present signs of an allergic reaction to your diet.
Cow’s Milk Allergy
Cow’s milk allergy is the most common allergy in children and is estimated to affect between 2% - 7.5% of babies under one year old, the good news however is most children grow out of it by the age of five. The first time you suspect a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance may be when you introduce formula (if using) or cow’s milk after your baby turns one. Your baby may not take to the milk or formula very well, although this is not a definite sign there is an allergy as any change can cause refusal. You may notice small red spots forming around the mouth or your baby may bring the milk straight back up or there could be a more severe reaction. If you suspect any sort of reaction to cow’s milk it is best to talk to your GP, and when you book an appointment ask the receptionist if you should see a specific doctor as there may be a GP at your surgery who has more experience in dealing with such cases. There are also some alternative formulas which contain little or no cow’s milk if you decide not to continue with breastfeeding or you could look at alternative milks if your baby is over one year old, but this can all be discussed with your GP or dietitian.
Some babies start to get eczema from 2 months and their skin will become red, dry, itchy and inflamed. Until you have a baby that suffers with eczema, you don’t realise how stressful it can be. Not knowing what is causing this itchy inflammation makes it very difficult, but there is help available and if your child has severe eczema then push for an appointment with a dermatologist via your GP. When you visit your GP you can talk through the options but if you feel you are not getting the answers then keep going back and ask for a referral to see a dermatologist.
As you introduce different foods to your baby’s diet, once they are 6 months old, you may notice an instant reaction to certain foods, or you may start to see symptoms hours or even days later. Symptoms can include itching, rashes, vomiting, diarrhoea or even difficulty breathing. If you suspect a certain food is the cause, then avoid this food and see if the symptoms stop. If you are not sure what it is that is causing a reaction, then keep a food diary and record the symptoms to see if you can identify the cause. It is also important to visit your GP or health visitor for advice as avoiding food groups unnecessarily isn’t recommended.
The important thing to remember with any allergy is help is readily available, and it is important to talk to the right people so if you aren’t satisfied with the initial response from your GP or heath visitor, keep going back or calling until you get the advice and help you need . As your child gets older, you may also be able to get some allergy tests to help determine the cause.
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