Allergies are highly common. In the United States, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Most of the time, they show up during infancy or childhood, which means parents must be vigilant.
Allergies can interfere with your child’s ability to sleep, pay attention in school, and play.
What’s more, allergies are becoming more prevalent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Estimates that between 1997 and 2011, skin and food allergies among American children spiked. Younger children are more likely to have skin allergies, such as rashes, than older children.
During an allergic reaction, your child’s immune system acts out in defense of a “foreign” invader, such as a food substance, that enters the body. An allergen is a substance that is otherwise normal—and typically harmless—in most people, but triggers an immune system reaction in your child. Read on to find out more about typical childhood allergens and the symptoms they cause.
Though anyone can have a milk allergy, they are most common among infants. Estimates suggest that 2-3% of babies are allergic to milk. Fortunately, many kids outgrow this allergy. Others do not.
When an infant is allergic to cow’s milk, his or her immune system overreacts to proteins in the formula. These proteins, which serve as the basis for commercial baby formulas, trigger the release of a substance which causes symptoms of an allergic reaction. These may include wheezing, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, coughing, throat constriction, upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea, red spots, hives, itchy or watery eyes, swelling, and a drop in blood pressure.
Most babies show signs of a milk allergy within days or weeks of receiving cow milk-based formula. Breastfed infants are at a lower risk for milk allergies. Those who are allergic may have symptoms if the mother eats dairy products.
Milk allergies are not the same as lactose intolerance, which occurs when the digestive system has difficulty breaking down lactose, a compound in milk.
Other Common Food Allergies
Eight food substances are behind 90% of all food allergies. Milk is one of them. In addition, the remaining seven most common sources of food allergies include: shellfish, tree nuts, soy, fish, peanuts, eggs, and wheat. Remember that it might not always be completely obvious what your child is allergic to. You may have to do some investigation to find the link, as food products often contain traces of one substance or another. Substances such as soy can lurk in a wide variety of products, including condiments, frozen foods, and thickeners.
Allergies to household pets such as dogs and cats are also common. Even animals with short hair who shed relatively small amounts may trigger symptoms of an allergy. Often, it’s not the pet that causes the allergies but dead skin cells, urine, fur, and saliva. If you notice your child sneezing, coughing, or wheezing after holding or playing with a pet, it might be a sign that they have an allergy.
Lactose intolerance is not an allergy, but it may be mistaken for one by both parents and doctors. Symptoms include gas, diarrhea, and bloating after consuming milk or other dairy products, such as ice cream, cheese, or yogurt. Lactose intolerance is a problem that occurs in the digestive system when the body doesn’t make enough of an enzyme to counter the lactose. This enzyme breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. When lactose is broken down it turns into glucose and galactose. But when there isn’t enough of the enzyme produced, lactose does not get broken down and passes through the digestive system, where bacteria trigger fermentation that results in acid and gas. As a result, lactose intolerance causes cramps, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain within a half an hour to two hours after any lactose-containing product is consumed.