Managing food allergies and intolerances in children

Managing food allergies and intolerances in children

An allergy is a false alarm triggered by the body's immune system as a response to harmless substances in our environment, e.g. pollen, or protein in food. As a result, our bodies generate specific antibodies in response to the "foreign substances" (known as antigens). When the body comes into contact with these substances again, an allergic reaction such as itching, skin rash, stomach pain or breathlessness is triggered by the release of substances resulting from a reaction between the antigens and antibodies.

Which foods trigger allergies?

You should exclude any foods from your child's diet that cause them to have an allergic reaction. Ask your doctor for a full allergy examination to avoid your child having to exclude essential foods, e.g. cow's milk, unnecessarily from their diet.

Allergies are often triggered by:

  • Cow's milk, hens' eggs and soya in infants
  • Cow's milk, hens' eggs, fish, soya, nuts like peanuts, treenuts and cereals like wheat in children
  • Vegetables, fruit, Spices, nuts, hens' eggs, cow's milk and fish in adults

Most common food allergies are Celiac disease (allergy to gluten found in wheat, oat and barley) and lactose intolerance (allergy to lactose in milk and milk products).

Food allergies that emerge in babies and toddlers often disappear by the time the child goes to school if they avoid having the offending foods when they are young.This happens as the food in question has not been absorbed by the body over a long period of time.

Tests and Diagnosis:

A medical check-up with tests like blood or skin tests, provocation (challenge) testing are done for diagnosis.

Treatment: The only proven treatment for a food allergy is to avoid the food which is suspected to cause allergy.

  • Identifying offending foods: Read the list of ingredients on any product carefully. The list of ingredients will help you to spot allergens present in packaged food. For many years, NESTLÉ has been providing consumers with extra information in addition to the basic list of ingredients. Ingredients known to frequently trigger allergies or intolerances are specified on the packaging, even if the product may only contain traces of these ingredients, as they may find their way into the product, e.g. as a result of other products being made on the same production line
  • Alternatives for offending foods:
    • Lactose Intolerance: Milk like soya milk is an alternative for people allergic to cow's milk. Dairy products like yoghurts can also be given in some cases. Foods like soya, tofu, eggs, meats, fish, poultry, fortified juices, commercially available low lactose milks can be given. Small amount of milk in combination with other non-dairy food depending on the severity can be given under doctor’s guidance
    • Celiac Disease: Wheat, rye, oats and barley need to be substituted with rice, soybean, maize and corn. The labels of every food item needs to be read carefully. Baked food items like cakes, breads and biscuits also contain wheat. It is best to consult the paediatrician about choosing food items

Suitable alternative toppings for bread include:

  • Non-dairy margarines
  • Cold meat cuts
  • Fruit based jams and spreads
  • Vegetable chutneys, pastes etc

If your child cannot consume any milk or dairy products due to lactose intolerance, you can still ensure they get the calcium they need by getting them to eat low lactose products like yoghurts and yoghurt based deserts. Yoghurts are better tolerable than milk as they have lactic acid instead of lactose