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Managing food allergy and food intolerance in infants

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Between 5- 6 per cent of young children in the UK suffer from a food allergy, which appear to be becoming increasingly common.1

Most serious food allergies start in infancy and early childhood and are usually caused by a relatively small number of foods. Though we tend to consider peanut allergy the most common, it is often foods such as milk and egg to which most infants and young children react.

Food allergy symptoms can vary from immediate IgE mediated reactions such as urticaria, angioedema, vomiting, wheezing, swelling of the lips and mouth, through to anaphylaxis, an extreme and severe allergic reaction that affects the whole body often within minutes of exposure to the causative substance.

Thankfully, anaphylaxis is rare in infants. More commonly, we are seeing delayed non-IgE mediated allergic reactions such as eczema, reflux, colic, diarrhoea, and faltering growth in babies, which can be more difficult to identify as an allergy due to the delay in symptoms,.

The main food intolerance that affects babies and young children is lactose intolerance. The enzyme, lactase, is needed to break down the milk sugar lactose in the gut and this is sometimes missing in some babies.

Missing lactase can also result from a stomach bug and in this case will usually resolve after a period of avoiding lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.


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