1. How will I know if my child has an allergic reaction to a certain food?
Allergy to foods in children occurs mainly to milk, wheat, eggs and peanuts. Often the allergic reaction such as hives, lip, tongue or face swelling or wheezing occurs shortly after the child eats the food and occurs on a repetitive basis each time the food is eaten. Further, allergic evaluation will confirm the food. Sometimes the food reactions are more subtle with eczema or mild asthma on a regular basis. This suggests allergy to a more regularly eaten food such as milk or eggs. Allergy evaluation or elimination of the suspected food may provide the answer.
2. Are allergies hereditary?
The tendency to develop allergies are inherited from parents. If one parent is allergic (has hay fever or allergic asthma) the chance of a child having allergies is about 40 percent. If both parents are allergic, the chance increases to nearly 75 per cent. In some cases, there is no evidence of a hereditary nature of the allergy.
3. At what age should I have my child tested for allergies?
If allergy to foods such as milk, eggs or peanuts is suspected, testing can be done by skin or blood tests at any age. If asthma or hay fever occurs, skin testing can be easily done also at any age. The need for testing depends on the extent and severity of the symptoms.
4. What should I do if my baby is allergic to formula and I can not breastfeed?
Most formulas are cows milk based. There are a number of formulas available for children who are allergic or intolerant to cows milk products. These include soy based milk, wheat based milk, lactose free milk, protein based formulas and basic amino acid formulas. A physician should be seen for advice before non-milk formulas are given.
5. Can I give my child an antihistamine? Over the counter or prescription?
There are a number of antihistamines available over the counter (non-prescription) which can be given to children. They are marked as to what age the drugs are recommended and should not be given to children younger than that age. The over the counter antihistamines are the older type of drugs which may have a sedative effect and parents should be wary of this.
The newer antihistamines (called second-generation) are by prescription only and are in general not sedating but are effective. The parent needs to consult a physician to determine if the child’s age fits the recommendation for prescribing.