Get up to speed on food allergy

Did you know severe eczema may be a sign of food allergy in young babies? Food allergies usually occur soon after eating the food or within two hours. According to Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, some babies can be sensitised to a food protein through breast milk or creams that contain food allergens such as nuts, oils, milk or egg.
 
The most serious symptoms of food allergy (anaphylaxis) are breathing difficulties and/or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Your infant may appear pale and floppy. This severe reaction can be life threatening. Follow emergency procedures (scroll down to see what to do in an emergency) then dial 000 immediately for an ambulance.
 
Confused about whether your child has symptoms of allergy or symptoms of food intolerance? Unlike allergies, food intolerances are not caused by an immune response to a food. Food intolerance symptoms often occur hours after a food is eaten, for example bloating after pasta, diarrhoea after a milkshake, or skin hives after eating foods high in amines or salicylates (food chemicals).
 
Don't attempt to diagnose a food allergy yourself. Speak to your GP or allergy specialist first. There is no cure for food allergy and avoidance is essential.

Click here to read Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia’s brochure ‘5 things you should know about Food Allergies’.

Symptoms: what to look out for

Symptoms of mild to moderate food allergy can include:

  • swelling of the face, lips or eyes

  • rash, hives and welts

  • diarrhoea or cramping

  • abdominal pain and vomiting

  • eczema, asthma and hay fever symptoms

  • headache

Symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that is life threatening:

  • swelling of the tongue

  • low blood pressure

  • difficulty breathing, wheeze, persistent cough/wheeze

  • tightness, swelling in the throat

  • hoarse voice, difficulty talking

  • dizziness or fainting

  • becoming pale and floppy (in young children)

What to do in an emergency

Severe reaction: anaphylaxis

  • lay your child flat to stabilise his/her blood pressure

  • use an adrenaline auto-injector, such as EpiPen if available

  • dial 000 for an ambulance.

Read more about what to do if your infant has a severe reaction.

Note: Antihistamines will not prevent or treat anaphylaxis.

Childhood allergy action plans

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Dr Robert Power explains the importance of having an allergy action plan for your child.
 
What’s an allergy action plan?
An action plan is a step-by-step document that helps parents or guardians manage an allergic reaction.
 
Why is it important?
It helps carers understand what is required of them so they can manage a reaction in the best possible way. This helps reduce complications.
 
How do I get one for my child?
Make an appointment with your GP to discuss an appropriate action plan for your child. At the end of the consultation you'll have a written action plan to take with you. Make sure to copy it and keep it in easy reach in various places (in your car glove box, on the fridge, etc.) should a reaction occur.

Managing non-food allergies is also a challenge for parents and carers. Australian parenting website Raising Children has excellent tips on dealing with non-food allergies, such as pet and medication allergies.