Is your baby finally ready to start solids? Find out what food allergies are common in Singapore.
WORDS CHIA YING MEI
Starting solids is an exciting milestone in a child’s life. You can finally introduce them to the world of food, glorious food! However, food allergies are a potential danger that can throw a huge wrench in the works. The scariest thing is that you never know whether your child has a food allergy until they are exposed to the food and they react. It doesn’t help that scary news headlines are popping up – we’ve all heard about children being so severely allergic to foods such as peanuts that even breathing in peanut dust can cause them to go into anaphylactic shock. Luckily, good planning on our part can minimise the chances of such severe reactions in our children.
One interesting thing about food allergies is that depending on which part of the world you’re in, different types of allergies are more common. “Buckwheat allergy is more common in Korea and Japan, and fish allergy is more common in the Philippines. However, both are rare in Singapore. Coconut, spinach and soy allergies tend to be rare in Singapore too,” says Dr Soh Jian Yi, consultant, Division of Paediatric Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology, National University Hospital.
So, what are the most common food allergies in Singaporean children? Well, it depends on their age groups. According to Dr Lee Bee Wah, paediatrician, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, eggs are the most common food allergy in infants and cow’s milk is second.
Young children and school children are more commonly allergic to crustacean shellfish
while peanut and nut allergies, though not very common, are currently an important cause
of severe allergic reactions requiring emergency visits or hospitalisation.
However, just because something isn’t a common allergen doesn’t mean your child won’t be allergic to it. “An allergic child can develop allergies to the environment or any food,” says Dr Lee. “Allergy to our local fruit has been described – for example, to durian or rambutans. These are unusual allergies.”
In a nutshell, this means that your child could be allergic to anything, not just the common allergens! So, what is a parent to do?
Introducing New Foods
When introducing something new to your child’s diet, the most important thing is to be patient. Dr Christelle Tan, specialist in paediatrics – Raffles Specialists, Raffles Holland V, recommends that a healthy child whose parents have no allergies should start on weaning foods between four to six months when infants have demonstrated readiness for solids in terms of their development. If your baby can hold their head up and sits well, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and shows an interest in your food, they may just be ready for solids.
Begin with foods with low risk of allergies such as cereals, fruits and vegetables. If they have been introduced to these foods already, then proceed to try the common allergens one at a time.
Be sure to only try one new food for three to five days
before introducing another, watching out for any allergic symptoms
such as rashes or an upset tummy.
It is advisable to try new foods at home instead of trying it at childcare so that you are able to closely monitor your child.
For children with parental allergies, if the child has no significant eczema and no previous allergic reactions, the introduction of allergens would be similar to that mentioned above. “Start with foods of low allergy potential at four to six months and subsequently introduce the common allergens. What would be advisable is for parents to have some non-sedative antihistamines on standby in case their child develops a reaction,” says Dr Tan.