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Certain symptoms that present in combination can suggest a particular food allergy. This was shared by Ong Jiaxin, Dietitian, from the Nutrition and Dietetics Department, and the Allergy Service, both departments from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group. Common types of food children are allergic to include:

  • Cow’s milk: Atopic eczema, hives, perioral rashes, diarrhoea, faltering growth, ‘three-month’ colic and gastro-oesophageal reflux.
  • Eggs: Vomiting, hives, wheezing and anaphylaxis. Symptoms are likely to be acute, although cooking may reduce the severity of the reaction.
  • Wheat and soy: chronic diarrhoea, irritability and colic.
  • Peanuts and tree nuts: hives, wheezing, stridor, shock and anaphylaxis. Symptoms are likely to be acute and cooking does not reduce the severity of the reaction.

Most children with egg, cow’s milk or soy allergies will eventually outgrow their food allergy. A small number of children with peanut or tree nut allergies may also outgrow their food allergy.

Until the child grows out of the food allergy, avoidance of the specific food is critical. Some cooked forms of the offending food may be tolerated, and encouraged, to help the child develop tolerance. In this area, a dietitian’s advice on what foods may be allowed is important.

At KKH, children with food allergies are regularly monitored by paediatric allergy specialists to determine when they have grown out of their food allergy. Parents are then advised to gradually introduce the previously offending food into the child’s diet, to enable the child to benefit from the nutrients it contains. In most cases, this is done under medical supervision in a food challenge clinic.

Food is composed of protein, carbohydrate, fat and various nutrients as well as substances naturally present in the food or added to the food to prolong the shelf life and prevent spoilage. Consumption of a particular food or additive can result in symptoms in individuals with food intolerances.

What to do if you are not sure if it’s a food intolerance or allergy?

It is important to consult your doctor to accurately diagnose food allergies to avoid unnecessary food restrictions, which can result in poor nutrition for your child, higher food costs, social inconvenience and masking of underlying disease/conditions.

Read on for more information on lactose intolerance on the next page.

Ref: M19