December 11, 2015

FOOD ALLERGY: COULD YOUR BABY HAVE IT?

It is possible, although a suspected food allergy often turns out to be something else.
By understanding how allergies work, you may be able to recognize the early signs, just in case. It's also important to know what to do if your baby ever has an allergic reaction.
What happens if my baby has an allergic reaction to a food?
If your baby is allergic to a food, his or her body treats the food like an invader and launches an immune-system attack
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Sometimes the body makes an antibody called IgE, a protein that can detect the offending food. If the food is eaten again, the antibody tells your baby's immune system to release substances such as histamine to fight the "invader." These substances cause allergy symptoms, which could be mild or severe.
Symptoms – like hives, swelling, or trouble breathing – usually show up within minutes to two hours after eating a specific food. If your baby has a severe allergic reaction, it can be life-threatening.
In some cases, though, food allergy symptoms – like eczema or gastrointestinal problems like vomiting or diarrhea – are chronic, or ongoing. (Eczema is dry, scaly patches of skin that show up on a baby's face, arms, or legs, but usually not the diaper area.)
Remember that your baby can have a reaction to a food even if he or she has eaten it before without any problem. So if your baby inherited the tendency to be allergic to eggs, there might not be a reaction the first few times they're eaten – but eventually he or she will show symptoms.
What foods might my baby be allergic to?
It's possible to be allergic to any food, but these eight food groups are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies: eggs, milk, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts (like walnuts and cashews), fish (such as tuna, salmon, and cod), and shellfish (like lobster, shrimp, and crab).
What should I do if I think my baby's having an allergic reaction to a food?
If your baby ever seems to be having trouble breathing, has swelling of the face or lips, or develops severe vomiting or diarrhea after eating, call for emergency right away.
Severe allergic reactions are nothing to fool around with. Your baby's airway can close up within minutes, so don't just call the doctor to get advice or drive your baby to the emergency room. You need paramedics on the scene as soon as possible.
If your baby consistently has symptoms within two hours of eating a certain food, talk with the doctor. He or she may refer you to a pediatric allergist for testing.
An allergist should be able to tell you which food or foods are causing the problem and whether the symptoms are part of an immune reaction (indicating an allergy) or are a sign that your baby's unable to digest the food (indicating a food intolerance).
Once your baby has had an allergic reaction to a food, you'll want to be prepared in case it happens again. Even if the first reaction was mild, the next might be severe. Your baby's doctor can provide you with an action plan, including instructions on how to manage an allergic reaction.
The doctor may recommend that you carry an epinephrine auto-injector. These devices look like magic markers and automatically administer the right dose of epinephrine to stop an allergic reaction.
Auto-injectors are usually first prescribed for young children, but if your baby has had an allergic reaction to a food, the doctor may recommend one now.
Make sure anyone who takes care of your baby – babysitters, relatives, daycare workers – knows about the allergy and what foods are off limits. Point out the kinds of foods that could hide the substance and ask caregivers to double-check ingredients. Also make certain that your baby's caregivers know exactly what to do if there ever is an allergic reaction.
Is there anything I can do to prevent or delay a food allergy?
This is the million-dollar question. In the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggested delaying the introduction of certain foods in children who seem likely to have allergies because their parents have allergies. But practices in other cultures – and recent research – suggest that might not be the best course of action.
In a clinical report published in January 2008, the AAP says there's no solid evidence that waiting to introduce allergenic foods will protect a child from developing an allergy. If you think the odds are good that your baby has a food allergy, talk with her doctor about the best strategy.
One thing most experts do agree on is that breastfeeding offers some protection against allergies. Consider breastfeeding your baby as long as you can, especially if you have a family history of allergies.
Another thing you can do is introduce your baby to new foods gradually. Feed him or her one new food at a time, waiting several days between introductions of new items. That way you'll be able to tell which food your baby is reacting to if he or she does have an allergic reaction.

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