The environment and certain foods can cause an allergic reaction.
As a parent, what do you do?
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.
An allergic reaction can come from what we eat, inhale or touch. It can also result from medicines taken. Some common allergic conditions are:
A common chronic recurrent skin condition due to impaired skin barrier and increased skin inflammation. It usually as dry, itchy, and red patches on the scalp, face and body in infants and toddlers, and neck, front of elbows and behind the knees in older children. Common triggers include harsh soaps, cigarette smoke, changes in climate, sweat, dust mite, pet fur, insect bites, infection and stress. Food allergies do not commonly trigger eczema.
Both conditions show raised, red, itchy skin patches that look like mosquito bites. 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. Common triggers of hives are viral infections, food or drug allergy, while allergic contact dermatitis are often caused by metals, preservatives and fragrances.
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:
The child 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).
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 (e.g. dust mite and pet fur), viral infections, cigarette smoke, pollution, physical activity and stress.
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 mould, household dust, dust-mites, pet fur and animal dander.
Common food allergens include eggs, shellfish, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish soy and sesame.
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.
Different symptoms last for different periods of time. Be alert and take note of your baby’s condition. It may not definitely be an allergy that he has but do consult a doctor just to be sure if and when your baby starts showing symptoms.
Call an ambulance immediately if your baby shows any of the below symptoms:
If your baby develops any of the following, see a doctor to manage:
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This article was last reviewed on
24 Nov 2023
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