The holiday season is here and with it comes a host of treats most everyone enjoys. But what’s a parent to do if they suspect their child has food allergies?
“The most common food allergies are to cow’s milk, soybeans, and peanuts and show up in the second or third year of life. And children with eczema are at increased risk of developing a food allergy,” said Dr. Lois Nelson, an Allergy/ Immunology Specialist in private practice with more than 45 years of experience in the field.
Signs and Symptoms
While food intolerances and allergies affect the digestive tract, allergies also pose a risk of anaphylaxis. “A child with severe allergies will have symptoms within seconds to minutes of ingesting a particular food,” Dr. Nelson states. “If the reaction is only hives, parents can give Benadryl first, but if there are breathing issues or repeated vomiting or diarrhea, immediate medical care is necessary.”
One local mother has a son who was initially diagnosed with reflux as a baby. “I don’t think anyone suspected allergies,” she says. Yet when her son was almost two, he would randomly vomit after eating and his progress on the growth charts started to diminish. At that time, she found a wonderful pediatric GI specialist. “My son was fine until ten months when all he was being fed was milk and rice or oatmeal cereal. But once we started introducing food, he spit up a lot,” she says. “After scoping and allergy testing, we figured out he was allergic to almost everything.”
Breastfeeding is highly encouraged as breast milk contains immune factors which decrease the frequency of infections of the ear, respiratory and digestive tracts. Studies have shown that breastfeeding until seven to nine months may postpone or help prevent the development of future allergies. Moms may need to avoid most milk products and make sure that they are consuming enough calcium and protein, if their baby is allergic to cow’s milk, especially if the child has more than two significant food allergies. For moms who choose not to breastfeed, there are formulas that are safe for babies who have cow’s milk or soy allergies.
Adding New Foods
Studies in the last ten years indicate that early introduction (at four to seven months of age) of common allergens decreases the frequency of allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing your child to food allergens early.
Dr. Nelson recommends that parents wait until their child is one before introducing honey as little ones are at a risk for developing infant botulism. “When adding new foods to your infant’s diet, take it slowly,” she suggests. “Do not add more than one new food per week, and curtail any new food additions when your child has an upper respiratory infection or a stomach bug.”
Healthy Choices for Kids with Allergies
Awareness and careful planning are essential when making healthy choices for your child. “These days there are more options for kids with food allergies,” a local mom reiterates. “As the parent of a child who is allergic to almost everything, I feel that people should try to figure out what would be a good, accurate balance for their child.”
Keeping in mind kids with food allergies this holiday season, consider non-food treats for parties and stockings. Here are a few ideas:
- Rub-on tattoos
- Colorful Erasers
- Play Doh or Silly Putty
- Coloring books
- Dollar Store games