Last evening I was with some friends and of course, talk turned to babies and children, allergies and asthma. It still amazes me how many children are diagnosed with allergies of one type or another and how many are diagnosed with asthma. But how do you know? How do you know when to take your child to the allergist? What symptoms would he be displaying and what should you watch for? I currently have one friend with a baby undergoing food allergy testing and another friend with a 4 year old undergoing preliminary asthma testing – yikes!
Many times allergies show up when a child is exposed to allergic foods at an early age, like milk, eggs, strawberries or peanuts. That’s why it’s usually recommended to wait until your child is at least one to try any of these foods. As they get older, they can become less allergic.
But sometimes even with the most careful food introduction, allergies still turn up. Remember, there are also all sorts of symptoms from the most severe, where it can be so severe that the most trivial contact with the food causes immediate itching, tingling, and/or swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat or full-blown anaphylactic shock. Most life-threatening food allergies are to peanuts, nuts, shellfish, or fish.
Usually, thankfully, the symptoms aren’t that severe, but that does make allergies harder to pick up on and avoid. Babies with food allergies may be fussier than their peers and experience more colic. Others symptoms may exist as well, and gastrointestinal symptoms are often the easiest to recognize. A food allergy might cause loose stools, excess gas, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. Infants will sometimes have streaks of blood or mucus in the stools, especially with allergies to cow’s milk, which can lead to anemia.
Other common symptoms include hives, ear infections, stuffy noses, runny noses, watery or red eyes, wheezing, asthma flare-ups, and eczema. If the offending food is eliminated, the symptoms usually clear up, but it’s important to eliminate all sources, including mother’s intake if the baby is still breastfeeding.
Also, allergies consistently change. What your baby is allergic at 9 months may be completely gone at age 2 and new allergies may have surfaced or not. The best bet is to consistently look for tell tale symptoms and pay attention, especially if allergies run in your family.