PARENT PICKLES: Food allergies and intolerance
HOW often have you heard a parent say their child has a food allergy? Sometimes, though, what people refer to as an allergy is actually food intolerance.
This week we're taking a look at food allergies and intolerances, how to know the difference, how long they last, risk factors and how you can reduce the risk of your child gaining an allergy.
A food allergy is when your immune system reacts to certain types of food as though it's toxic and releases chemicals, which can cause major problems.
The most common food allergies include cow's milk, hen's eggs, soybeans, peanuts, tree nuts (almond, brazil, cashew etc), sesame, wheat, fish and shellfish. Luckily most food allergies are not severe and many children will grow out of them.
In many cases your child may have a food intolerance rather than an allergy. This is when they have a reaction to food that's not caused by the immune system, generally less severe and sometimes not immediate.
Lactose intolerance (dairy products) as well as intolerance to food additives such as MSG are among the most common, while wheat intolerance is also common (but be careful, as wheat allergies are also common).
HOW LONG DO ALLERGIES AND INTOLERANCE LAST?
This depends on the allergy, but most children will grow out of it. Those children with milk, egg or soybean allergies often will no longer have an issue in their teens, but those with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are likely to have a lifelong allergy.
It's important not to experiment with allergies yourself. If you want to see if your child has outgrown it, you should visit your GP.
As for food tolerances, it's much less certain because it depends on what food and the reason your child's body is reacting. If you think they have outgrown it, then you can slowly reintroduce it into their diet to check if it's gone or you can check with your GP.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS AND HOW DO YOU REDUCE THEM?
Children of parents with allergies in general (hay fever, asthma) are 40-80% more likely to develop an allergy even if it's a different one to the parents. More specific data for food allergies isn't available at this stage.
If you want to reduce your child's risk you can take the following steps:
- Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet while pregnant and/or breastfeeding
- Breastfeed for at least six months and through your child's transition to solid food
- Introduce solids at around six months of age - any earlier than four months can increase allergy risks
- For formula-fed babies, follow ASCIA guidelines, which highlight the risk of hydrolysed infant formula due to them being hypoallergenic
HELP AT HAND
Our WBHHS child health team is available to support local families.
You can visit the team at the Margaret Rose Centre, 312 Bourbong St, Bundaberg; The Village 34 Torquay Rd, Hervey Bay; or the Bauer-Wiles Building 167 Neptune St, Maryborough.
Alternatively, call your local WBHHS child health team on:
- Bundaberg - 4150 2700
- Fraser Coast - 4122 8733
- Childers - 4192 1133
- Gin Gin - 4157 2222
- Gayndah - 4161 3571
- Mundubbera - 4161 3571
- Monto - 4166 9300
- Biggenden - 4127 6400
- Eidsvold - 4165 7100
Even if you just want to have a chat and a bit of reassurance, the WBHHS child health team is here to help!