Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

Having a baby or young child with a food intolerance or sensitivity can make childcare an even more difficult job than it is already. Mealtimes should be happy times and food should be a positive thing in your baby’s life. If your baby is unwell and you aren’t sure why, they may be suffering from a sensitivity to a particular food. This might range from a mild sensitivity to a particular ingredient or it might mean your little one has an allergy or complete intolerance to a food or range of foods.

Signs to Watch Out For

There are a number of signs that your child might have a food intolerance or sensitivity. While these symptoms could point to a number of problems or illnesses, it is worth considering your baby’s diet if they have any of the following signs;

? Colic symptoms in babies; crying incessantly for long periods, high pitched crying that cannot be relieved.

? Babies pulling up the legs after a feed as if in pain.

? Babies spitting up a lot of their feed.

? Vomiting in a child of any age.

? Toddlers and young children complaining of tummy pains or discomfort in the abdomen.

? Loose bowel motions (diarrhoea) or difficulty passing stools (constipation).

? Unexplained rashes or bumps, itchiness or eczema.

? Swelling, especially around the mouth.

? An unexplained wheeze or cough.

Common Food Sensitivities

The most common food sensitivities are eggs, milk (lactose) and nuts. In babies, a reaction is most likely caused by the lactose in formula or cow’s milk. These can be replaced with lactose free versions, but only on the advice of a doctor. In older children who have a more varied diet, it can be more difficult to assess what the cause of the reactions might be. Any of these substances as well as a range of other foodstuffs can be the cause of an allergic reaction, but a mild reaction may elicit mild symptoms and it may not be obvious that your child is sensitive to a particular substance. This is why it is important to have any of the listed signs of sensitivity checked out by your child’s doctor.

In an Emergency

If your child tries a new food and has an immediate reaction, or even if you aren’t aware of a new food having been eaten, and a reaction occurs that you are concerned about, it makes sense to seek medical help. This is especially true if the child has a rash, any swelling or difficulty breathing. Treat any of these symptoms as a medical emergency and seek immediate attention.

The Next Steps

It is important to understand the difference between allergies and sensitivities/ intolerance’s. An allergy involves the child’s immune system, while intolerance simply means that the body cannot cope with the food in question. If you are concerned that your child may have an allergy or sensitivity to a food, it is important that you discuss it with your doctor who will use a process of elimination to work out the cause of the reaction and any further treatment your child needs. This may involve having a dietitian help you work out the cause, eliminating certain substances from the diet to try to establish which foods your child should avoid. The good news is that many children will grow out of sensitivity to particular foods, and if not they can be taught from an early age to manage the problem by avoiding the food in question and dealing quickly and effectively with any reactions that do occur.