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Allergies and your baby

What should you look out for and what are the most likely allergies?

Posted: 16 September 2008
by Laura Lee Davies

Whilst those parents with serious (potentially life-threatening) allergies may well already be on their guard for allergies in their babies, there are a few starter points to look out for.

Signs of allergic reaction
The most likely allergic reactions your baby will have include some of the signs of a cold: getting a sore throat, a runny nose or earache. These can also be symptoms of teething, but if other symptoms are not present - an excessive cough that is not linked to other signs of having a cold or it looks like teething but without the red cheeks or nappy rashes - then you could think about potential allergens that your child might have been exposed to.
Other reactions include stomach upset and being sick or have itchy, sore eyes.
The most obvious manifestation is a skin reaction: blotchy, raised red rashes, itchy patches and swelling around the mouth or possibly the eyes.
Do not worry that your child has an allergy or a related serious condition or offer medication until you have spoken to a health professional. Remember that babies are experiencing many new things in their first year which will sometimes produce a short-lived, harmless physical reaction that often goes unnoticed by the child himself.

Sources of allergies
Anyone can develop an allergic reaction to almost anything which passes through or touches their body, including bee stings and some chemicals. However, these are the most common:

  • Pollen A runny nose and itchy eyes and skin are the most likely reaction. Different plants give off their pollen at different periods of the year and you might find your baby is sensitive in April and then not at all until September or October. The most common period is around June. You are most likely to be aware of it because a change of environment (going indoors, coming away from a rural setting) improves the condition. Avoidance is the best solution, but you can also make sure you wash away the debris of the day from your child's face, hands and hair at bathtime.

  • House dust Wheezy irritability and reactions similar to those caused by pollen are most likely. Try to ensure that soft furnishings are kept well vaccuumed (but do this when your baby is not in the room) and make sure you clean your house without causing vast clouds of dust to spread. Think about having wooden floors rather than carpets in rooms where the child is most likely to play and sleep, if possible. It is also worth looking at 'hypoallergenic' bedding.

  • Food allergens These are likely to produce rashes and raised red areas of skin, which can spread quickly but often start around the mouth. If you have a family history of serious reaction to certain foodstuffs, then you should consult a doctor and think carefully about introducing any new foods too early. Breastfeeding exclusively for six months is preferable in such cases. You should not introduce foods that are commonly linked to allergic reaction until after your child's first birthday.

    Common food allergies
    Most common food allergens for children are: wheat, cow's milk, egg whites, fish (including shellfish) and citrus fruits. Parents should also be aware of avoiding nuts too early (whole peanuts should be avoided until your child is five due to the risk of choking), though by the time a child is three they should be fine if no other allergic symptons have occurred. Parents with no history of allergies sometimes choose to include nuts as an ingredient earlier than this but if you are in any doubt about your own child, try to avoid this or consult a health professional first.
    Check food ingredients and the composition of oils and creams for babies' bathing and skin treatment as some use nut oils.
    If a child shows a non-life threatening food reaction then you can try to pinpoint the cause by simplifying your child's diet and introducing certain foods slowly, one by one, to see which food it is. However, if doing this leaves your child's diet nutritionally compromised then you should consult your doctor before starting this process.
    Serious allergic reactions can only be kept at bay by avoiding the food in question. People who are known to have such dangerous reactions are given medication to carry with them at all times in case of accidental exposure.

    If you are pregnant
    If you suffer from allergies, you need to consult your doctor before taking any regular over-the-counter drugs to counter the symptons. If you usually get hayfever, you will need to do your best to avoid situations which aggrevate it as hayfever drugs will be off limits.
    If you are sensitive to foods, you will probably already be avoiding them. If you already have a child who has a food allergy or your partner has a history of food allergy, try to cut out these allergens yourself in the second half of your pregnancy. However, do talk to your doctor if excluding a particular food is going to leave you without a key source of nourishment.

    For more information, check out the Allergy UK wesbite (helpline 01322 619 898) or visit the site of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

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    Discuss this story

    Share tips and experiences of living with your child's allergies or how you coped with your own allergies in pregnancy.

    Posted: 30/01/2006 at 12:16

    Another common allergic reaction is to washing detergent. Apparently using a non-bio or a 'sensitive' detergent can help. There are a couple that Allergy Uk endorse that carry their logo which are supposed to reduce irritation.

    Posted: 01/02/2006 at 16:10

    Interesting piece on allergies.
    My friend found out her daughter was allergic to nuts when she tried to give her some peanut butter on toast when she was a toddler. She had to rush her to hospiutal but she called ahead and they were fanstastic, waiting for her when she got there. After that she kept some of whatever the antidote is with her at all times. It has made them a completely nut free family though.
    It's a shame some kids are allergic to nuts, they can be so good for them.
    We definitely stick to non-bio for washing our kid's clothes as there is certainly a skin sensitivity, especially when the cold weather makes skin so dry.

    Posted: 03/02/2006 at 13:09

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