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Allergy in your baby
What is allergy?
Allergies are sensitive reactions that occur when the body's immune system reacts in any unusual way to foods, airborne dust, animal hair and pollens. This results in conditions such as hay fever, eczema, hives and bowel problems. The condition is also called atopy.
Allergies are common in babies and children. They usually disappear as the child grows older, but sometimes can continue into adult life.
Unlike most of the common illnesses (such as measles and chickenpox) an allergy can have many symptoms, and these vary widely from child to child. Allergies are not infectious.
How to tell if a baby has an allergy
An allergic reaction might take hours or even days to develop and can affect almost any part of the body. Symptoms may be any of the following:
What are the causes?
Is allergy inherited?
Allergy cannot be passed from generation to generation, but children from families that have a tendency to allergy have a greater chance of becoming allergic. However, anyone can become allergic.
What is the management?
Breastfeeding of allergy-prone babies for the first 6 months might diminish eczema and other allergic disorders during infancy. Breastfeeding is a good way of making sure your baby has a healthy start in life.
If breastfeeding is not possible, choose a breast milk substitute (formula) carefully. Get advice from your doctor or infant welfare nurse.
What happens when solids are introduced?
If possible, do not start solids until the baby is 5 or 6 months old. Start one food at a time, in small amounts. The quantity can be increased the next day if no reaction occurs.
New foods should be introduced at least several days apart. Particular care should be taken when starting foods that most commonly cause allergic reactions (dairy products, eggs, citrus fruits and peanut butter). They should be avoided during the first 6 months.
If possible, prepare the baby's food using fresh ingredients. For example, a child with cows milk allergy should avoid cows milk in any form. Foods such as butter, ice-cream and cheese are also made from milk, and many forms of milk can be found in bread, cakes, biscuits, soups and most margarines. Read labels carefully to check ingredients in products.
Many babies and children develop allergies to house dust and animal hair. Vacuuming regularly and keeping pets outside will reduce the problem.
Bedding should be aired regularly. Damp and poorly ventilated homes are subject to mould, which can cause allergy. Both the mould and its cause should be eliminated.
Other things that can be done