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discover your child allergy risk

Discover Your Child’s Allergy Risk


What is an allergy?

An allergy is a bodily reaction to substances that are typically harmless to others. When a child is allergic to something, the immune system mistakenly believes that the substance is harming the body, and fights it off.

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Substances that cause allergic reactions – such as specific foods, dust, pollen or medicines – are known as allergens. Depending on where the allergen enters the body, a child may experience symptoms such as:

  • inflammation (redness and swelling)
  • hay fever (allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis)
  • eczema, hives (urticaria)
  • asthma
  • stomach or bowel problems

For example, a child’s allergy to cow’s milk may cause eczema, asthma, colic and stomach upset. The inability to digest lactose (milk sugar), however, is an intolerance and must not be confused with allergies.


Did you know?

In Singapore, allergies like atopic dermatitis (eczema) now affect around 1 in 5 children.


What are common food allergens in Singapore?

SHELLFISH: This is the most common food allergen. Shellfish allergy continues into adulthood and is the most common cause of food anaphylaxis in adults.

GALACTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDE (GOS): GOS is a plant-based prebiotic found in some formula milk in Asia, Europe and the USA, which can cause anaphylaxis. This is a new phenomenon unique to Singapore and more cases are being reported in this region.

PEANUTS: According to local hospital records, nearly a third of hospitalization admissions for food allergies are associated with peanuts.

BIRD’S NEST: Allergy to bird’s nest is unique to Singapore. This is likely due to the high consumption of this Chinese delicacy.


Who are at risk?

Allergies are usually hereditary, though kids have a 5-15% risk of developing allergies even without familial allergy history. The good news is that some allergies can be outgrown, though children who are genetically inclined to allergies may develop other allergic conditions.

Eczema and food allergy are common among infants, while asthma and allergic rhinitis are common among preschoolers and school-going children. This progression of development of allergies is known as “allergic march”. As the development of allergies varies by individuals, it is important to get the right diagnosis, and manage the allergy correctly.


Practical Tips

Although there’s no cure for allergies, allergy symptoms can be managed. Educate your child early on the possible symptoms and inform caregivers about your child’s allergy.

  • Do not avoid common food allergens during pregnancy and lactation. Lactating mothers are also encouraged to consume up to 3 servings of oily fish per week.
  • Breastfeed for at least 6 months. Breast milk contains nutrients that protect your child against infection. It also promotes the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in the gut. This potentially alleviates inflammation in the event of an allergic reaction.
  • Introduce your child to a variety of solid foods after 6 months while breastfeeding, particularly iron-rich foods such as iron-fortified cereals.
  • Introduce common food allergens to your child before 12 months of age, unless he or she is already allergic to the food. Start with small quantities and watch for any adverse reactions. This also applies when switching to formula milk where required.
  • Consult your doctor if bottle feeding is required after breastfeeding for babies on which kind of formula milk is suitable.


About partially hydrolysed proteins

You might have heard about partially hydrolysed proteins in toddler milk. These proteins are from cow’s milk and their size are reduced for easier digestion. They are made to be gentle to the developing tummy. Partially hydrolysed proteins are introduced in the formula milk manufacturing process for some time.

Seek advice from your doctor for more benefits of partially hydrolysed proteins if you are keen to find out more.

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