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Children 0–2 years

Allergy awareness

BabyMany environmental factors are known to trigger an allergic reaction. For instance pollens (particularly during spring), strong odours, animal fur, dust mites and even the food we eat.

What is a food allergy?

An allergy is the abnormal response of our immune system to certain food that in other individuals is harmless. The reaction observed results from the binding of an antibody (IgE) to the protein contained in the food. Once the antibody is bound to the protein, it causes chemicals to be released, which then cause whatever symptoms arise. It may take a few minutes to hours until symptoms develop and symptoms can vary. Even minute traces of a food can cause allergic reactions

Allergy Symptoms:

  • Hives
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Wheezing or breathing difficulty
  • Reddening and flushing of the skin
  • Stuffy nose and hay fever symptoms
  • Eczema (itchy, scaly skin rash)
  • Swelling around the mouth, face or eyes

Most common food allergens:

  • Milk/dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Peanuts or tree nuts (brazil, almond, pine nut, cashew)
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish
  • Fish

It is unusual for an individual to be allergic to more than 2 or 3 foods; however some people do have multiple allergies.

Those individuals who have a known family history of allergy have a higher risk of developing allergies to food and other substances. The familial trait is to develop an allergy, but doesn’t necessarily determine the type of allergy.

Infants are more vulnerable to the development of food allergies. This is because their immune and gastrointestinal systems are not fully developed.

There is no convincing evidence that avoidance of potentially allergenic foods (including cow’s milk, eggs, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and crustacean shellfish) beyond 6 months of age is beneficial in preventing allergies in infants with or without a family history of food allergy.

Discuss this with your paediatrician on a case by case basis.

Milk replacements

If cow’s milk allergy is suspected:

  •  Maintain breast-feeding for at least the first year if possible.
  • If breast milk is not available visit a paediatrician to discuss a hypoallergenic formula alternative
  • In Australia, NZ, UK and a number of European countries it is recommended waiting until an infant is 12 months of age before introducing cow’s milk, however small quantities can be given as part of foods in cooking after 6 months.
  • Goats milk is not a suitable milk alternative for infant with cow’s milk allergy
  • In NZ fortified plant-based beverages e.g. rice and oat milks are suitable for toddlers if supplemented with Vitamin D, B12, riboflavin and calcium. These beverages can be used if the diet contains protein and energy from other food sources.

The introduction of solids

When introducing solids, new foods should be introduced one per day with a 2-4 day period in-between.

Once tolerated these foods should be regularly included in the infants diet to maintain tolerance.

At Lea Stening Health we do not do allergy testing, but once a diagnosis has been made by an Immunologist and/or a Pediatrician we can offer help and advice. This may include menu plans, recipes, meal suggestions and information on manufactured products.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »

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