If any of you work with very young babies and are trying to navigate your way though the whole weaning process with parents and worried that the little one you look after potentially could have a food allergy/intolerance here are a few pointers.
A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to certain foods. The immune system then releases histamine reaction which creates symptoms of skin rashes, swelling, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Researchers believe that if there is a history of Eczema, hayfever or asthma in your family then your baby is more likely to suffer from an allergy.
According to current NHS advice you should begin introducing solids to your baby at about six months. As far as the allergenic foods you should always consult your GP or health visitor if you are worried however within the guidelines at the moment is that from six months allergenic foods should be introduced in very small quanitites and one by one.
- cows’ milk
- foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
- nuts and peanuts (serve them crushed or ground)
- seeds (serve them crushed or ground)
- shellfish (don’t serve raw or lightly cooked)
Research suggests that introducing foods such as peanut and eggs beyond the six to twelve month period increases the risk of the child developing an allergy to these foods.
Many children outgrow their allergies to eggs and milk however it appears that if you have a peanut allergy this usually can stay with you.
How do you tell if the young baby you look after has an food allergy when perhaps the parents are unsure or haven’t tried these types of allergenic foods. If a baby is going to have an allergic reaction this is going to happen pretty much as soon as they have eaten that specific food
Signs to look out for are;
- diarrhoea or vomiting
- a cough
- wheezing and shortness of breath
- itchy throat and tongue
- itchy skin or rash
- swollen lips and throat
- runny or blocked nose
- sore, red and itchy eyes.
If your child shows one or more of these symptoms get medical advice.
According to statistics only a small proportion of children can have severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) If this is the case you should seek emergency medical advice.
So what’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? The two can easily be confused.
A food intolerance is more common than a food allergy. Symptoms are slower manifest but are longer lasting and tend to attack or irritate the digestive system including nausea, gas, cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhoea Other symptoms include joint pain, rashes, eczema and headaches.
A food allergy is less common and affects the body’s immune system which reacts by releasing chemicals in the body. The reaction can cause symptoms as previously explained above like coughing, diarrhoea, breathing problems, vomiting, abdominal pain, hives, swelling, a drop in blood pressure, blocked nose, itchy eyes. At it’s worst it can lead to Anaphylaxis.