Advice Column, Health, Nutrition, Recently, Rediscover Dairy

A Focus on Food Allergies

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  • Category Advice Column, Health, Nutrition, Recently, Rediscover Dairy

Did you know that if one parent has an allergy, there is a 30 – 50% increased risk of a baby also being allergic? And, if both parents are allergic, there is a 60 – 80% increased risk. Yet actual food allergy rates are quite low with just 3 in 100 South African children allergic to peanuts, egg, milk or fish according to a local study. So, if this is actually the case, what is the best way to approach food allergies with our children? 

Understanding Allergies 

When we have an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system overreacts thinking that the food is harmful. To protect itself from this suspected invader, the immune system goes on attack and makes antibodies against that food (the soldiers that defend the immune system). The next time the food is eaten, these antibodies are ready for action and make histamine. It is these chemicals that cause allergy symptoms that make us so miserable. Usually an allergic reaction will show up within a couple of hours of eating the food that causes the allergy.  Signs and symptoms can range from mild, like watery eyes, a blocked nose, skin rashes, itchiness, or tummy upsets, to more serious issues like breathing troubles. 

In theory, any food can cause an allergy, but foods like egg, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, cow’s milk, soy, fish, shellfish, and sulphites are the most common culprits. In some countries other foods are also considered allergens, such as sesame seeds, lupin, mustard, and celery. Rates of food allergies vary for each food though. For example, a cow’s milk allergy (also called a cow’s milk protein allergy or CMPA) affects between 2 – 6 % of children and an egg allergy up to 17%.  

Don’t Delay, Allergen Away

Registered dietitian, Monique Piderit says: “Many parents worry about introducing allergens to their little ones. Yet did you know that waiting too long can increase the risk of developing an allergic reaction? Many studies support that there is no benefit in delaying the introduction of potential allergens. And what’s more, many of the potential allergenic foods provide great nutritional benefits for our children. Milk, for example, has muscle-strengthening protein, bone-building calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and other important nutrients like vitamin A, zinc, potassium, and the vitamins B2 and B12. Milk is also used to make other foods much-loved by babies, children and adults alike, like yoghurt, maas and cheese.” This is why healthcare professionals suggest that the benefit of including these foods in a healthy and balanced diet is far greater than the very small, potential risk of a reaction. 

Out With The Old (Allergy), In With The New

Great news – it is entirely possible for babies and children to outgrow a food allergy. This is because allergies to foods like cow’s milk is highest in the first year of life, with most children outgrowing the allergy by age 3 – 5. So go ahead and offer up the allergens to your babies and children. Stir maas into the morning porridge, offer up yoghurt as a convenient and tasty snack, and let your little one practice their pincer grasp with finger foods like grated cheese. 

To find out more about the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance visit the Rediscover Dairy website:

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  • Chloe Lynch September 7, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    So important for new parents to read this! I thought that allergens should be avoided until the child was older. I’m sure many parents have thought the same. After learning this I introduced all the allergens to my daughter before she turned 1 years old and luckily it seems that she is allergy free!

  • William Nguyen MD October 1, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    So, if there is an increased risk of allergies if one or both parents have allergies, what is the best way to approach food allergies with our children?

    One way to approach this is to introduce potential allergens early on, as delaying the introduction of these foods may actually increase the risk of developing an allergy. Additionally, many of these potential allergens also offer great nutritional benefits, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making any decisions. Ultimately, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to get tailored advice for your individual situation.


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