baby allergy, food allergy, dust allergy, allergen, asthma

​How do you manage allergies?

An allergy occurs when the body comes into contact with a protein that triggers an abnormal immune response in sensitised people. 

The immune system is your body’s defence against bacteria or other harmful substances. Sometimes, it may mistakenly identify something that is usually harmless as dangerous, and trigger a series of reactions in the body. 

The exact cause of how someone develops an allergy is still not known. Although allergies tend to run in families, it does not mean that just because there is no history of allergy in your family, your baby will not develop it. If either parent has an allergy, there is an increased chance that your baby will also have an allergy.​

Allergies can occur at any age, but they usually appear during a baby’s first year. 

Common Allergic Conditions 

An allergic reaction can come from what we eat, inhale or touch. It can also result from medicines taken. Some common allergic conditions are: 

Allergic eczema

An allergic reaction of the skin that presents as dry, itchy, and red patches on your baby’s face and body, often in the folds of the neck, arms and legs. 

Hives and allergic contact dermatitis

Both conditions show raised, red, itchy skin patches that look​ like mosquito bites. Both can be caused by food allergies, medicines, and viral infections. The patches do not stay in the same spot. Hives will fade within minutes to hours, while allergic contact dermatitis may take days to disappear. 

Food allergy

Food or parts of a food (e.g. nuts in a muffin, eggs in a cake) can trigger reactions in people who may be sensitive to them. Most reactions are mild such as skin rashes. But some can be serious such as anaphylaxis – a severe life threatening allergic reaction that can be fatal if left untreated. For some foods, this allergy is temporary, and the child will grow out of it after several years (eg. cow's milk protein allergy). For some food allergies, they can remain for life (eg. nut allergy).

Other allergic conditions that may manifest in early childhood are: 

Allergic rhinitis

The baby will have an itchy, runny and sneezy nose. It is caused by inhaling dust mites, mould and animal dander (material shed from the body of an animal). 

Asthma

This is a condition where there is chronic inflammation of the airways, resulting in wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. For children with sensitive airways, asthma attacks can be triggered by inhaling allergens. 

Allergens 

An allergen is a substance that triggers an allergic reaction. 

There are many types of allergens. In fact, anything around your baby could be an allergen, as long as his immune system identifies it as one. 

Common allergens include pollen, mould, household dust, dust-mites, pet fur and animal dander.​

Common food allergens include eggs, cow’s milk, soy milk, peanuts, shellfish, stone fruits (e.g. apricots, peaches) and grains such as wheat, oat and barley. 

Managing allergies 

There is no cure for allergies, though most children tend to outgrow them in their teenage years. The most important thing is to identify and avoid allergy triggers, and work with your baby’s doctor to address any symptoms.

If your baby’s doctor suspects that he has an allergy, the doctor may recommend a skin prick test. In this procedure, drops of allergens that the baby is suspected to have are put on the baby’s skin. Then a tiny prick is made in each drop. How the skin reacts will reveal which, if any, the baby is allergic to. The doctor may give him medication to reduce the symptoms, hence reducing your baby’s discomfort. You will need to inform other caregivers about your baby’s allergies and show them what to do in the event your baby has a reaction.

Get help 

Different symptoms last for different periods of time. Be alert and take note of your baby’s condition. It may not defin​itely be an allergy that he has but do consult a doctor just to be sure if and when your baby starts showing symptoms. ​

Seek help immediately if your baby develops any of the following: 

  • His lips, tongue or throat swell up. 
  • He is wheezing, breathing loudly or has trouble breathing. 
  • He is sweating or vomiting. 
  • He has a widespread rash. 

​How to minimise your baby’s risk of getting an allergy 

Minimising food allergy 

  • If you have a family history of food allergies, avoid eating those foods that trigger the allergy, especially if you are breastfeeding. Allergens can be passed to your baby through the breast milk. 
  • Seek professional advice. Consult your doctor on when and what solid food to offer to your baby.​ 

Minimising environmental allergy 

  • ​​Do not let anyone smoke in your home or near your baby. 
  • Keep your home clean and dust-free. Check that the place where your baby spends majority of his day (eg. nanny’s home, child care centre) is similarly clean. 
  • Prevent your baby from coming into contact with pets. 

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