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Childhood Food Allergy

On this page you will find information about food allergy and spotting symptoms in children. We have free factsheets about Cow's Milk Allergy (CMA) and how to follow a milk free diet. We also have factsheets to help guide you when it comes to weaning your baby on to solids and immunisations for your child. They can all be found at the bottom of this page.

What is Food Allergy?

Almost 1 in 12 young children suffer from a food allergy and they seem to be getting more and more common. Food allergies occur when your immune system becomes confused – instead of ignoring harmless food proteins, it triggers a reaction, which leads to the release of a chemical called histamine. 

It is histamine which causes the classic allergy symptoms of hives or swelling.  More severe reactions are called anaphylaxis, and this may be life threatening.

Does your child have Cow's Milk Allergy?

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Cow's Milk Allergy

Kate found out that her firstborn, Eben, had a Cow's Milk Allergy, after he suffered from a reaction following a few spoonfuls of yoghurt. The experience was terrifying for new mum Kate.

Looking for information on Cow's Milk Allergy?

Scroll down for further information on Cow's Milk Allergy (CMA) or download our Factsheet at the bottom of the page.

How Do I Know If My Baby Has a Food Allergy?

Food allergies are much more common amongst children who come from families where other members suffer from allergy. Babies who suffer from eczema are at a higher risk of having food allergies. The more severe the eczema and the earlier in life that it began, the more likely there is to be a food allergy.

What Are the Symptoms of Food Allergy in Babies and Children?

Symptoms of an immediate food allergy:

Mild to moderate symptoms typically affect the skin, the respiratory system and the gut.

  • A flushed face, hives, a red and itchy rash around the mouth, tongue or eyes. This can spread across the entire body.
  • Mild swelling, particularly of the lips, eyes and face.
  • A runny or blocked nose, sneezing and watering eyes.
  • Nausea and vomiting, tummy cramps and diarrhoea.
  • A scratchy or itchy mouth and throat. 

Severe symptoms (anaphylaxis). These require urgent medical attention.

  • Wheezing or chest tightness, similar to a severe asthma attack.
  • Swelling of the tongue and throat, restricting the airways. This can cause noisy breathing (especially on breathing in), a cough or a change in voice
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure (called hypotension) leading to shock.
  • Dizziness, confusion, collapse, loss of consciousness and sometimes coma. 

Symptoms of delayed food allergy:

  • Eczema (information on Eczema can be found here)
  • Reflux – an effortless vomiting
  • Poor growth
  • Swelling in the small bowel 
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Raising knees to chest with tummy pain
  • Frequent distress and crying

Managing a food allergy in children or babies, such as cow's milk allergy, can be stressful not only for the child but also for the parents

How Can I Manage My Child’s Food Allergy? 

Managing a food allergy in children or babies can be stressful not only for the child but also for the parents. There are 3 key things to be on top of when it comes to managing a food allergy:

  1. Identify and avoid the cause (if possible)
  2. Recognise the symptoms of an allergic reaction
  3. Know what to do if it happens again

What is a Cow’s Milk Allergy?

Cow's Milk Allergy (CMA) is an abnormal response by the body’s immune (defence) system in which proteins in a food (in this case cow’s milk) are recognised as potentially harmful. This causes the immune system to be 'sensitised'. This means that the next time that cow’s milk is consumed , the immune system remembers this protein may be harmful and may react to it by producing allergic symptoms. 

Symptoms of Cow's Milk Allergy often start in the early weeks and months of life. There are many possible symptoms which may suggest your baby has a cow’s milk allergy. Allergic symptoms can affect one or more of the body’s systems, including the skin, digestive and, less commonly, breathing or blood circulation. Allergic symptoms may be called mild, moderate or severe.

For more detailed information on food allergies in children and cow's milk allergy, please find further useful resources below…

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