What is Allergy
The symptoms of an allergic reaction are caused by chemicals produced by your child’s immune system in its attempt to protect the body from a foreign invader. Our immunes systems are designed to protect us from anything that may cause disease. Usually this is a micro organism such as a virus. However the immune system of an allergic person attempts to protect the body not only from potential pathogens but also from harmless substances such as pollens, animal dander, dust mites, mould spores and food.
Why will one child have an allergic response and another child none? This questions is still largely unanswered, however some evidence does suggest the difference lies in:
- The child’s inherited genetic make up
- The circumstances under which the child encountered food, i.e the age of the baby at solid introduction, if the baby was prem and how the baby was fed
- The micro organisms that live in a childs digestive tract.
Diagnosis of Food Allergy
The most important step in the diagnosis of food allergy is obtaining a careful medical history. There are skin and blood tests for allergies, however because the tests are not reliable, many allergists do not perform tests for food allergies. The clinical evidence (the way your child behaves when he eats a certain food) is most accurate.
Common food allergies:
The most common food allergies in South Africa are peanuts, wheat, dairy, soya, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and eggs.
Cows Milk Allergy
Cows milk allergy is the most frequently encountered food allergen in infancy, and milk allergy is often the earliest indicator that a baby is an allergic child. About 80 – 90% of children will outgrow their cows milk allergy by the age of 5 years.
Most often, symptoms appear in the skin – where eczema, hives and swelling may occur – and in the gastrointestinal tract with abdominal bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting.
Milk has 25 different proteins and an allergic child can be allergic to 1 , 2 or more of these milk proteins. Some of these proteins are heat sensitive and are changed at boiling point and so someone who is allergic to these specific proteins will be able to tolerate boiled milk only.
Goats milk may be tolerated for a time by a small number of children with Cows milk allergy. However goats milk allergy frequently develops quite quickly in children who are allergic to cow’s milk. The protein in cows milk is very similar to the protein in goats milk and in a recent study 24 out of 26 children who were allergic to cows milk also developed an allergy to goats milk. Goats milk is also high in sodium (salt content) and low in folic acid and vitamin B12. There are no adequate goats milk formulas in South Africa and children should not be drinking goats milk under the age of 2 years old.
Foods and Ingredients to Avoid:
Ingredients Potentially Made with Cow Milk Products
Many commercially produced foods contain hidden ingredients that you do not expect. You will need to read the labels on the following products as they may contain milk:
Milk Substitutes to Use in Recipes to Replace 1 Cup Cows Milk
- 1 cup light-coloured fruit juice (e.g. apple or white grape)
- 1 cup soya infant formula
- 1 cup soya milk