A Word about Food Allergies and Intolerances… The incidence of food allergy and intolerance is on the rise and the symptoms involved are becoming increasingly varied, often making diagnosis difficult. More and more children are reacting to foods, with peanut or cows' milk allergies being particularly common.
A series of surveys conducted in early 2012 discovered that 57% of GPs questioned found cows’ milk allergy difficult to diagnose, 1 in 5 parents had seen their GP 10 times or more before an allergy to cows’ milk was diagnosed and 28% of GPs said they did not fully understand the ‘delayed’ type of cows’ milk allergy.
If you have a family history of food allergies or are concerned about your child having a food allergy or intolerance, keep a diary of all the foods that your child has had, when she had them and any symptoms she may have had after eating the food, such as a runny nose, unsettled behaviour, diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive tiredness, skin rashes and so forth. Symptoms may be immediate or may appear a day or two later. Take this diary with you to your GP or Health Visitor for advice. If you think your baby has reacted badly to a food call NHS Direct (0845 4647) or call 999 if you think it is an emergency.
An Intolerance or Allergy?
Few people really know the difference between these two, but if your child is reacting to a food then you will need to know whether they have an allergy or intolerance:
- An allergy causes the immune system to respond with immediate and/or delayed symptoms (see our Cows’ milk allergy or intolerance page).
- An intolerance does not involve the immune system. In the case of cows’ milk, symptoms may be triggered by a lack of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. As a result, lactose remains in the gut undigested, causing symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, tummy pain and wind.
If you suspect your child has an allergy or intolerance then you must get a professional diagnosis – omitting foods from a child’s diet unnecessarily may negatively affect their short and long-term health. Also make sure you get professional advice on how best to nourish your child if he or she has been diagnosed with a food allergy or intolerance.
Allergy UK survey of CMA awareness among 328 parents of children diagnosed with CMA (2012) (Data on file)
Independent survey panel of CMA awareness among 250 HCPs: 150 GPs and 100 Health Visitors (2012) (Data on file)