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Food allergy often appears when babies first start solids or infant formula, but it can also appear in fully breastfed babies. Symptoms can include hives, itching, swelling, vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea. In some cases, it can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms, called anaphylaxis (ana-fil-axis), either by breathing difficulties and/or a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Sometimes food allergy may be less obvious and can be characterised by colic, reflux of stomach contents, eczema, chronic diarrhoea, and failure to thrive. Up to 40-50 per cent of eczema cases in children under the age of one are triggered by food allergy. Generally, the earlier the onset of eczema (under one year of age) and the more severe it is, the more likely it is that food is a trigger. Eight foods make up for 90 per cent of food allergies: eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. cashews, brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds etc), fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. However, any food can trigger an allergic reaction. Between 6 and 8 per cent of children have a food allergy, but the majority will lose their allergies by age three to five years. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shell fish are generally prolonged.
Dust mite allergy can trigger allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and typically begins to develop in children as young as two. It can also trigger eczema.
The common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include your child breathing through their mouth, having a stuffy nose all the time or during specific seasons, dark circles under their eyes or snoring at night. Left untreated, allergic rhinitis can have a detrimental effect on your child’s learning and behaviour.
For diagnosis, an experienced GP, paediatrician or an allergy specialist will take a history of reactions, examine your child and possibly arrange for allergy tests. These are either skin prick tests or blood (RAST) tests. With a diagnosis, you can get trusted information and support on how to manage your child’s allergy by contacting Allergy New Zealand.
Allergy New Zealand – for a free information pack go to www.allergy.org.nz