Starting your child on solids can be a nerve-wracking time for any parent. Will your little one have an allergic reaction to anything? And what do you do if it does happen? Worse, what if it happens at childcare when you’re not on hand?
These are all valid fears for parents, especially as hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions has doubled in the past 10 years in Australia. Around 1 in 20 babies experience allergic reactions from certain foods, according to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) – although even health experts aren’t sure why.
What we do know is that family history counts: if you or your partner is allergic to something, your child has a 30 percent chance of inheriting the allergic gene and could develop eczema, asthma, hay fever or a food allergy. If both parents have a history of allergies, your child has a 40-60 percent chance of developing allergies themselves.
The top five food triggers for allergic reactions in children
You may feel worried about your child trying new foods at childcare. Please know that we are fully aware of common ‘trigger foods’ such as the one below and take steps to ensure children in our care with food allergies or sensitivities are safe at all times. If, however, you’re testing foods out on your child at home, these are the ones to watch for in terms of reactions:
- Peanuts. Obviously, this is a hard one because peanuts are in so many things. If your child has a peanut or ‘groundnut’ allergy, you need to steer clear of baked goods, nougat, peanut oil, sauces, sweets, Asian takeaways and more.
- Tree nuts.Tree nuts include almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. Again, baked goods, pasta sauces and Asian foods are on the ‘do not eat’ list, but you should also get into the habit of checking labels and avoiding things like breakfast cereals, salad dressings and chocolate/lollies.
- Shellfish.The good news about a shellfish allergy is that it’s not the same as a seafood allergy – so your child may still be able to eat fish. The bad news is, a shellfish allergy means your child will be sensitive to crustaceans such as prawns, crab or lobster, and molluscs such as clams, scallops, oysters or mussels.
- Milk.Some babies do develop allergies to the protein in cow’s milk, which can be a pain if your baby is on formula as many are based on milk proteins (soy or lactose free formulas are more readily available though). If you’re breastfeeding, you may need to restrict the amount of dairy you’re eating, but chat to your doctor.
- Egg.Did you know that most egg allergy reactions occur in very young children with eczema? Or that the egg white is more likely to cause a reaction than the yolk? Plus, children with egg allergy may have an increased risk of dust mite allergy and asthma. The list of things to avoid includes quiches, custards, meringues, condiments such as mayo, sauces, cakes, pre-crumbed meats, ice creams and more. Ask your GP for a full list.
Other common food allergies
Of course, that’s by no means an exhaustive list. Soy allergy is another and can be a particularly tricky one as soy is found in so many foods you might not expect such as breadcrumbs, gelato, biscuits and cakes. Similarly, sesame allergy and wheat allergy are also relatively common allergies that may affect young children.
When to introduce new foods to your baby
Studies suggest that if you introduce common allergy-causing foods to your baby before he or she is 12 months old, that may reduce the chance of developing an allergy to that food.
That includes peanuts, eggs, dairy, tree nuts, soy, sesame, wheat, fish, seafood and shellfish. It’s advised that you give new foods during the day so you can watch for allergic reactions, and you can rub a small amount inside your baby’s lip to start with. If there’s no reaction after several minutes, try feeding your baby a few spoonfuls of the food.
How to know your child has a food allergy
If your child is having an allergic reaction to a certain food, symptoms can include diarrhoea or vomiting, a cough or wheezing, itchy throat and tongue, itchy skin or a rash, swollen lips and throat, runny or blocked nose and sore, red and itchy eyes.
Certain foods may cause severe reactions (known as anaphylaxis) and if you think your child may be having an allergic reaction to a food he or she has eaten, seek urgent medical advice or call Triple Zero (000).
Seaforth Childcare’s allergy action plan
We’re committed to the safety of all the children in our care and take steps to know the allergy risk of every individual child. As a parent, letting us know of any foods that may pose a risk to your child is always helpful. In the case of an allergic reaction, asthma or another specific condition, you will be asked for details on enrolment and your Child’s Risk Minimisation Plan or Medical Management Plan.
We have Communication strategies in place to ensure all staff are across any issues with the children in our care, and extensive medical emergency plans are known and revised regularly by all staff members. We also have EpiPens on site if required. For more comprehensive details or a copy of our Medical Conditions Policy, please contact us.
Has your baby suffered an allergic reaction? How have allergies changed your life as a family?