Infant Allergy

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Symptoms

A baby’s crying bouts can cause feelings of distress and helplessness on the part of the parents. Although crying is normal for babies, there is no reason to feel concerned unless the crying carries on for hours, and the baby is clearly having a difficult time. This is when parents should start to worry.

Colic is a condition in infants that is characterized by excessive crying with no apparent reason. Oftentimes, food allergies are to blame, and cow’s milk and dairy products top the list of typical food allergens. Despite their nutritious content, the digestive and immune systems of humans, particularly infants, were designed only to drink milk from human mothers, hence may not be expected to tolerate milk from cows, or other sources. An allergic reaction can give a little baby an upset stomach that leads to crying bouts right after feeding.

Bottle fed babies are most affected by cow’s milk because cow’s milk is the basis for most commercial baby formulas. However, the symptoms can also be evident in breast fed babies, depending on the food in their mothers’ diet. If a breastfeeding mother is ingesting milk or dairy products, their baby could react with a colic that lasts for months. Aside from milk and dairy, the likely foods to cause allergies include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat, fish and seafood. So even if babies are too young to eat solids, they may be allergic to whatever their mother is eating.

Other than colic, an infant reflux or a gastroesophageal reflux (GER) are possible symptoms. A reflux is a backward flow of stomach contents up the esophagus and sometimes out the mouth due to the dysfunction of a baby’s relatively immature lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that opens when food and liquids are swallowed into the stomach, and closes again to keep stomach contents in their place. It is a normal occurrence, but if the baby is spitting or throwing up right after feeding and this happens too often, and is accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, runny nose, or rashes, the reflux can indicate a food allergy

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is another symptom. Within an hour or less after feeding, babies with eczema experience intense itching with patches of dry, thickened, scaly skin which appear on their forehead, cheeks, or scalp, and can spread to the arms, legs, chest, or other parts of their body. The rash might also have tiny red bumps that can blister and ooze, and scratching it can worsen the eczema causing infection. But aside from food, eczema can also be aggravated by hot and dry weather or skin irritants (i.e., wool and nylon fabrics, chemicals in some soaps, lotions, detergents, perfumes, etc.).

Allergies to milk and eggs tend to disappear when the child reaches the age of three to five. However, allergies to peanuts and fish can be carried on until the child reaches the age of seven, while other food allergies are carried on until adulthood.

Usually, bottle fed babies are prescribed a hypoallergenic infant formula, or a protein hydrolysate formula, which is easier to digest and less likely to cause allergic reactions than standard cow’s milk formula.

For breastfed babies, their mothers have to undergo elimination diets to determine the problem foods, and simply stop eating them while they are still breastfeeding. Although time-consuming, these diets are worth the effort.

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