Allergies and Intolerance in Children
Frequent sneezing, coughing, skin breaking out into hives or rashes, stomach ache or nausea after eating certain foods can be signs of allergies in children. Allergy is indeed a health condition involving the immune system. Usually, our immune system is trained to attack infectious bacteria and viruses.
However, in a child with allergies, the immune system launches a vicious attack on harmless things like dust, pollen or even certain foods such as fish, nuts or cow's milk among other foods.
When an allergic child is exposed to allergens, the immune system sends out antibodies called immunoglobulin E. These antibodies are attached to special cells called mast cells, which release histamine and other allergy mediators that bring about the allergic reaction.
When it comes to environmental allergens, we can take some precautions to mitigate the risk of allergies. But what about food allergies?
Some few important matters to better understand the world of food allergies:
In foods, the major cause of allergies is usually protein.
Common food allergies known to affect infants and children include cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, soybeans, wheat, fish, and tree nuts.
In most of these foods, it is the protein component that has shown to trigger allergic reactions. For example - casein the protein from
cow's milk, ovomucoid protein from eggs etc.
Food allergies and food intolerance have similar symptoms but are different conditions.
Food allergies and food intolerance might be a bit confusing given the common symptoms.
However, the major difference between them is that food allergy involves the immune system whereas food intolerance does not involve the immune system and does not cause severe allergic reactions.
Food allergies such as milk, egg, wheat, and soy might resolve spontaneously in childhood or adolescence in approximately half to most of the cases.
MANAGING FOOD ALLERGIES IN CHILDREN
There is no medicine to cure food allergies - management involves avoiding the food, and sometimes the entire food group and preparing to contain the symptoms in case the allergenic food is eaten accidentally?.
However, avoidance of certain food groups can result in an inadequate intake of essential nutrients. Since childhood is a stage of growth and development, nutritional inadequacies can impair proper growth and development. Studies have shown that children with food allergies are underweight and smaller compared with those who have no food allergies. Children with multiple food allergies are at an increased risk of impaired growth and increased likelihood of inadequate intake of nutrients.
Cow's milk allergy is the most common type of allergy that infants suffer from. to avoid it is highly recommended to breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first 6 months according to WHO and then continue breastfeeding up to 2 years introducing different foods gradually with doctors consultation and advice.
It is important to know that the nutritional value of milk can't be completely ignored in children with cow's milk allergy who are under 2 years of age. Thus, pediatricians might recommend cow's milk-based formulas that are made with extensively hydrolysed cow's milk protein. In these formulas, the protein is broken down into smaller peptides that limit the risk of allergic reactions If the baby is depending on infant formula.