Here’s what you need to know about recognising and helping to manage your child’s condition.
WORDS CHIA YING MEI
If your child shows symptoms of being allergic to certain foods, bring them to see their paediatrician or an allergy specialist. “Many times, it may be a suspected allergy and not a true allergy. This is because the child may have developed a rash from a viral infection but had also eaten something new at that time. As a result, it is sometimes mistaken that the child had an allergic reaction,” says . Dr Christelle Tan, specialist in paediatrics – Raffles Specialists, Raffles Holland V. Tests may have to be done to check if the child is truly allergic to a certain food type. Two validated tests for allergies are skin prick tests and IgE tests.
A skin prick test is a process where many types of allergens can be tested at once. A tiny drop of different allergens is placed in rows on the skin, then a sterile lancet is used to prick each extract into the skin’s surface.
If your child is allergic to certain allergens, a wheal that looks
similar to a mosquito bite will form.
Rest assured that as the lancets barely penetrate the skin’s surface, the skin prick test is painless. The IgE test, however, is a blood test that checks antibody levels against certain allergens so it requires blood to be drawn. This has to be done in cases where skin prick tests cannot be conducted, for example, if your child has severe eczema.
Other tests that may be conducted include the oral food challenge, where your child is asked to ingest the allergen in a controlled setting within the hospital under close monitoring. It usually starts with a small amount that increases slowly. Your child is monitored for any immediate reactions. Food exclusion trials may also be recommended, where the suspected allergen is removed from the diet then reintroduced to see if symptoms reoccur.
Once the allergies are confirmed, parents will be trained to recognise and handle allergic
reactions. They can then keep oral antihistamines on hand for a mild allergic reaction or
an adrenaline autoinjector pen for severe allergies as recommended by the specialist.
Allergies are becoming more and more common, but with a little information and effort, they are very manageable. Take basic precautions, but don’t worry too much about something that may never even occur. Go ahead and share your favourite foods with your child!