Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Identify and Deal with Dairy Allergies in Kids

The occurrence of dairy allergies in children is very common and quite problematic, since children rely on breast milk and formula from birth. Most kids’ treats and snacks also contain dairy products that can trigger an allergy. It is therefore very important for parents and caregivers to know what constitutes a dairy allergy and how to handle it.

An allergic reaction to dairy is triggered by proteins in products such as milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. In children, chances of getting this allergy are increased if there is a history of allergies in the family, or if cow’s milk is introduced during the first nine months of the baby’s life. Sometimes the allergy occurs without these factors. In such cases, the child’s system is oversensitive to proteins.

Dairy allergies can manifest themselves in many ways, but the most common include constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, passing gas and other problems with bowel movements. Other symptoms are stomach pain, sinusitis, ear infections and vomiting after ingesting the dairy products. It is relatively easy to tell if a child is suffering from this allergy by checking whether the symptoms occur after breastfeeding or bottle feeding. If you are unclear of the cause, consult your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis.

There is always the fear of calcium and protein deficiency in a child with dairy allergies if the milk products are completely removed from the diet. However, several solutions are available depending on the age of the child. For breastfeeding babies, get a specially manufactured formula that removes the milk proteins that trigger the allergy while retaining the actual nutrients in other forms. This kind of formula is more expensive than most, but it is worth the investment for your child’s sake.

Older children, for example those who are being weaned, can be introduced to milk substitutes like rice milk or soy milk. These do not contain any milk products that cause the allergic reaction. Soy products still provide the necessary proteins, calcium and magnesium that boost the growth of strong bones and muscles.

The outbreak of such a reaction is a clear indication for parents to alter their children’s diet. Numerous dairy-free snacks and recipes are available to keep your child’s allergies at bay. A major problem among kids and parents alike is the common belief that soy, the most popular milk substitute, tastes horrible. With a little creativity, you can create delicious whipped cream, “milk” shakes, ice creams and other foods using soy.

Nonetheless, parents and caregivers often remain muddled about the problem of dietary changes, so the best option is to consult a nutritionist for more milk-free solutions. Research recipes and products available on the market that can help manage the allergy in your child with no risk of malnutrition. Keep your child’s health first and adapt your lifestyle to minimize the allergic reactions.

As the child grows up, inform them about the condition because you will not always be in control of what they eat at parties or locations. Teach your child to make healthy food choices to manage their allergies.

About the Author: This is written by Haliyma Barrow, a freelance article writer based in New York.  Haliyma has keen interest in child health issues such as baby food and skin care for babies.

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