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Monday, August 21, 2006

Allergies Are Everywhere, But So Is the Good Advice

Food allergies are truly a worldwide concern these days. And they affect children in every country and culture in a similar way.
A good summary of basic info on food allergies is available from this article from the Malaysia Star, from which I excerpted the following:

The earliest manifestation of allergy in childhood is food allergy, with cow’s milk protein allergy being one of the most common. Food allergy affects all age groups, but infants are more susceptible due to their immature digestive and immune systems. This problem should be taken seriously because it not only brings misery to the affected child, but also impacts the whole family emotionally, socially and financially.

The precise causes of food allergy are unknown but the major contributing factors have been identified as:

• Genetic background of the child

• Inherent ability of certain food components to trigger allergic reactions

• Maturity of the digestive tract

• Age of the child when the offending food is first introduced

• Infants with allergic parents are more prone to food allergy but even normal infants are not spared due to the immaturity of their digestive tracts and immune system. Therefore, the first step in the battle against food allergy is to determine your child’s risk level.

Risk of developing allergies based on family history:

• Both parents without allergies: 5-15%

• One parent with allergies: 20-40%

• Both parents with allergies: 40-60%

Exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months of life. During this period, abstain from highly allergenic foods yourself to prevent them from making their way into the breast milk.
Start weaning your baby only after he has reached six months of age. Even then, introduce only one new food a week to enable any allergy to be detected easily. Start with rice or rice cereal as it is least allergenic. Leave out allergenic foods until your baby is at least a year old. These include egg white, peanuts and seafood like prawns, crabs and scallops.

If you are giving your baby commercially prepared foods, read the food labels to screen for unsuitable ingredients. When in doubt, clarify with the manufacturer. A committed and responsible company will always be ready to assist you.

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