November 21, 2009

Food, Environmental Allergies A Threat To Children

When introducing your newborn to new foods, be sure to look out for signs of food allergies, said an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Food allergies can occur in babies as young as six months old," said Dr. Carla Davis, assistant professor of pediatrics - allergy and immunology at BCM.

There are eight foods that cause 90 percent of allergies in kids, said Davis.

These include:

* Cow's milk
* Eggs
* Soy beans
* Wheat
* Tree nuts
* Peanuts
* Fish and shellfish

Introduce foods one at a time

Davis, who sees patients at Texas Children's Hospital, emphasizes the importance of introducing one food at a time to infants, so it is easier to recognize if an infant is having an allergic reaction to a specific food.

"Wait one or two days between foods," said Davis.

Signs of a reaction include allergic skin conditions such as eczema and hives. Davis recommends consulting with a pediatrician to conduct allergy tests if these symptoms are present. Allergies can be detected through skin tests or blood tests. If there are allergies present, it's a good idea to consult with a pediatric allergist, said Davis.

Ignoring food allergies can be dangerous to a child, said Davis.

"It can lead to anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can even lead to death," said Davis.
Environmental triggers

Although food allergies can be detected early, environmental allergies do not usually occur until after two years of age, said Davis.

"A child's immune system needs to be exposed to the environmental allergen for at least two seasons before an allergic reaction occurs," said Davis.

Environmental allergies can also be detected through blood tests or skin tests. Common allergies include grass, weeds, tree, mold, cockroaches, cats, dogs, feathers and dust mites. Tree allergies occur in the spring, grass allergies are most common in the summer and weed allergies are present in the fall.

Treatment for both food and environmental allergies includes medication and avoiding the allergen. For older children, allergy shots are an option.

Although anaphylaxis is less common in environmental allergies, Davis emphasizes the importance of treating a child's allergies and minimizing their exposure to the allergen.


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