Chicken eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, soy and wheat. Those are the top five most common allergens among children in Singapore. Gleneagles Hospital paediatrician Dr Liew Woei Kang adds that an allergy to shellfish is commonly seen in older children or adults.
Needless to say, weaning becomes more challenging for you and bubs if he has a food allergy You’ll also need to pay closer attention to store-bought processed foods — including baby foods like purées and cereals — as some products may contain traces of eggs or peanuts.
Incidentally, if you have a food allergy, it does not mean that your baby will have it, too. In fact, Dr Elizabeth Tham, an associate consultant in paediatric allergies at the National University Hospital, notes that there is currently no evidence to suggest food allergies are hereditary.
“Around 60 to 80 per cent of children with egg and milk allergies do outgrow their allergies by the age of 5.”
However, children with moderate to severe eczema are at a higher risk of food allergies. Dr Tham explains that the defective skin barrier causes your baby’s immune cells to be extra-sensitive to foreign substances like food — this results in an allergic reaction when your child is exposed to a specific food trigger.
The good news is your child may eventually outgrow certain food allergies. Dr Tham says, “Around 60 to 80 per cent of children with egg and milk allergies do outgrow their allergies by the age of 5.” But allergies like peanuts and shellfish tend to follow your child well into adulthood.
If you suspect that your kewpie has a food allergy, sticking to single-ingredient baby foods may help you pinpoint what is causing him these adverse reactions.
Dr Tham notes that signs of a food allergy can be immediate or delayed, so be sure to keep an eye on your mini-me for any adverse reactions for at least two hours after feeding him. Dr Tham says the signs can include:
* Immediate symptoms: Oral, facial or body rashes, swelling of the eyes, lips or face and difficulty in breathing after eating.
* Delayed symptoms: Bloody stools, constant vomiting or looking pale and unwell or poor growth.
Do seek medical help as soon as these symptoms show up as allergies can be fatal if left untreated.
If you don’t have any family history of allergies, Dr Tham suggests trying the following methods:
1. Don’t skip allergenic foods when you’re pregnant There is just no evidence to suggest leaving out these foods can reduce the risk of allergies in your infant.
2. Breastmilk is best Your breastmilk is packed with antibodies and immune cells that will strengthen your munchkin’s immune system, coating his gut with microbes to protect it from causing an allergic response to food. Dr Tham advises mothers to breastfeed their child for at least six months and if possible, until they turn 1.
If possible, Dr Tham advises mothers to breastfeed their child for at least six months and of possible, until they turn 1.
3. Moisturise your kewpie’s skin daily Applying emollients — moisturisers — daily on baby’s skin from birth can reduce the risk of eczema. A lower risk of eczema will lower the food allergy risk as well.
4. Wean in a timely manner Introduce solid foods when bubba’s between 4 and 6 months, advises Dr Tham, but don’t delay weaning beyond 6 months. Do include allergenic foods such as eggs, peanuts and shellfish in his meals, as withholding these foods can lead to an allergy later in life, she explains.
However, Dr Liew points out that such preventative measures have only had shown “limited success” in babies if you have a family history of eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis and food allergies.