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Parents warned not to self-diagnose baby’s food allergies

Massive increase in children’s allergic reactions to food but misdiagnosis also on the rise

Posted: 10 August 2010
by Kimberley Smith

The rise in cases of childhood food allergy in the past 20 years is not just down to “wrong labelling” says NHS watchdog, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). The NICE report studied 1,000 children on the Isle of Wight and found that around 6% had a food allergy.

Though the NICE report did suggest self-diagnosis was a factor, there is a genuine increase in allergic reactions to foods such as cow’s milk, dairy and eggs.

“This increase has been reported as evidence of over-anxious parents worrying unnecessarily about their children. But actually 6%-8% of all children in the UK with a genuine allergy is a huge number,” said paediatric allergist Dr Adam Fox.

Poorer diets of processed and junk food and a lack of vitamin D have been linked to allergies. Doctors have also suggested that our modern, bug-free houses might be to blame for failing to introduce harmless bugs to babies in order to build up their immune system. Late weaning has also been put forward as a potential cause, with one study showing early exposure to cow’s milk actually decreasing the chance of an allergy.

However, more research is needed to prove any of these theories.

If your baby is showing signs of an allergy, the best thing to do is visit your GP. Avoiding foods as a way of detecting intolerances should only be done with professional supervision because some food groups, such as dairy, are vital for your baby’s development. Many infant allergies and intolerances disappear with age and it’s worth reintroducing foods as your baby gets older.

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Discuss this story

Other studies suggest that early weaning can trigger allergies as the stomach is not ready to properly digest proteins etc at 4 months - hence health visitors are supposed to reccommend not weaning until 6 months.
We thought my son might have some foods allergies to begin with - but I'm pleased to say he doesn't! He started off getting a rash from cows milk (in his cereal etc), but by 8 months he was fine with yoghurt and cheese and by 12months was drinking whole milk without any reaction. He also reacted to wheat, strawberries and tomatoes but that only lasted a few months. The one thing that brought him out in horrendous hives was egg, so we've tried a little every 8 weeks until he stopped reacting to it about 2 months ago- now scrambled egg is one of his favourites! Tomato occasionally still gives him a slight rash but it doesn't seem to bother him so we don't worry about it. With this in mind, I know some who would have just kept their baby off the food for good and decided they had an allergy, but as my boy showed they can grow out of these things - only a doctor shoul diagnose an allergy and in that case I would definitely reccommend against trying to introduce the foods slowly unless under strict medical supervision! Either way if you're worried you should always take your little one to see a doctor, they'll know the best course of action for you.

Posted: 10/08/2010 at 19:43

Talkback: Parents warned not to self-diagnose baby’s food allergies

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