Welcome back to our food allergy series! We’ve covered a lot of ground up to this point. We’ve examined the differences between food allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances. We’ve also looked at the symptoms of each, as well as how to get a diagnosis. If you haven’t read those articles yet, be sure to go back and take a look.
Over the course of the next 2 articles, we’ll be learning about the 5 most common childhood food allergies: dairy, egg, wheat, nut, and soy allergies. In this article, we’ll look specifically at dairy and egg allergies.
NOTE: If you believe your child might have a dairy or egg allergy, intolerance or sensitivity, please consult with your child’s doctor for further testing and information.
Dairy Allergies & Sensitivities
If your baby has a dairy allergy or sensitivity, here are a few things to remember:
- Dairy is the most common allergy among babies and toddlers in the U.S., affecting about 2.5% of children under age 5.
- The vast majority of children with “dairy issues” have dairy sensitivities as opposed to true dairy allergies. These babies and toddler usually experience symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. You may also notice other symptoms, like eczema and skin rashes, suppressed immunity, lethargy, and irritability.
- Occasionally, a baby or toddler will have a true dairy allergy. Symptoms can include wheezing and shortness of breath, or full-blown anaphylaxis. It’s rare, however, for dairy products to cause such severe reactions.
- Dairy allergies range in their severity. Some children can’t tolerate any dairy products at all; others can’t drink milk but can eat foods that have been prepared with dairy products (like baked goods, sauces, etc.) Babies and toddlers with less severe dairy allergies may be able to handle dairy products that have been cooked or baked.
- It can be hard to distinguish between true dairy allergies and sensitivities, and dairy intolerance (otherwise known as lactose intolerance.) However, lactose intolerance is quite rare in babies and toddlers (although it’s very, very common among adults.) If you’re unsure as to whether your baby’s reactions to dairy are due to a sensitivity or not, consider visiting your healthcare provider for more insight.
Egg Allergies & Sensitivities
If your baby has an egg allergy, keep the following points in mind:
- Egg allergies are one of the most common childhood allergies in the U.S. Egg allergies typically involve skin reactions, like eczema and rashes/hives. Occasionally, egg allergies can produce vomiting and (rarely) anaphylaxis.
- An egg allergy isn’t always an allergy to the whole egg. Some babies may be allergic to egg whites, while other are allergic to egg yolks. However, if you know that your baby is allergic to one and not the other, doctors still don’t recommend that you feed your baby the “non-allergic” part of the egg (for example, feeding your baby yolks if he’s allergic to whites.) Doctors advise this because it’s impossible to completely separate egg yolks from egg whites.
- Egg allergies vary in intensity from one baby to the next. Some babies will be extremely sensitive to eggs; others will be able to tolerate some foods that contain traces of eggs (for example, cookies or breads baked with eggs.)
- If your baby has an egg allergy, strive to read food labels carefully. Eggs are hidden in a surprising number of foods, from canned soups to salad dressings to pre-packaged meatballs. Remember, too, that egg substitutes (like Egg Beaters®) contain egg proteins and aren’t safe for babies with egg allergies.
- Talk to your doctor about whether or not your baby should have a flu shot. Flu shots are prepared using egg-based ingredients, and they can pose a problem for babies and toddlers who are severely allergic to eggs.
Outgrowing Dairy and Egg Allergies
Here’s some good news: the majority of babies and toddlers with milk or egg allergies will outgrow them. The numbers vary, but statistics indicate that a large percentage of children have outgrown their allergies by the time they reach kindergarten, and virtually all have outgrown them by the time they’re 10 years old.
Experts are noticing, however, that children are outgrowing their allergies more slowly than they did in the past. This, coupled with the fact that more and more children are being diagnosed with food allergies each year, have doctors concerned, and reveal the need for more research into the question of what exactly causes food allergies.
Dairy and Egg Substitutions
If your baby has a dairy or egg allergy, you know first-hand that cooking for your little one can become a real challenge! Not to worry, though; today, children with food allergies have far more options than they did in the past.
|Milk||Soy milk*, rice milk, almond milk, and coconut milk are all safe replacements and are available at many grocery stores. (Note: goat’s milk and sheep’s milk are very similar to cow’s milk and aren’t considered safe substitutes for children with dairy allergies.) Plant-based milks (almond, soy, coconut, etc.), unless specially fortified for toddler consumption, do not have enough fat and sugar content to provide for the energy needs of a growing child. In addition, plant-based beverages can be loaded with sugar to mask a bitter taste the plant has naturally. Of all the milks for a vegan child or adult, soy milk remains our dietician’s recommendation at this time.|
|Butter||Earth Balance Buttery Spread® comes highly recommended and contains no milk products at all. There are many products on the market now and if the product says “vegan” or “plant-based”, it’s a sure sign they won’t have dairy in them. These can include products such as coconut oil, almond oil, and more. If you need to avoid nuts, choose carefully. (Note: watch for margarines that are made with vegetable or olive oil; many of them still contain milk solids.)|
|Yogurt||So Delicious® yogurt (made with coconut milk or almond milk) is a good option. So is Silk® dairy-free yogurt alternatives. Again, be sure to check the sugar content as a lot of sugar is often used to mask a bitter taste the plant has naturally.|
|Cheese||Soy cheese is made with soy milk* and is a safe substitute for dairy cheese. Tofutti® cheese products are made with tofu and is safe for those with dairy allergies, too. Be warned, however — these substitutes taste nothing like “real” cheese and don’t melt well.|
|Sour Cream / Cream Cheese||Tofutti® makes tofu-based cream cheese and sour cream.* (Contains soy.)|
|Commercial Replacement||Ener-G Egg Replacer® comes in powder form and is great for baking.|
|Homemade Replacements||You can use pureed banana or applesauce in place of the egg in some recipes. You can also mix a little ground flaxseed with water. To do so, mix 1 Tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 Tablespoons of water. Stir and allow it to sit for 5 minutes until it thickens.|
*Some dairy substitutes contain soy. Soy is also a common allergen, so if your child has both a dairy and a soy allergy, be sure to avoid all soy dairy substitutes.
**Products that are labeled as “egg substitutes”, such as Egg Beaters®, contain egg ingredients and aren’t safe to use for children with egg allergies.
For extensive information on cooking for babies and toddlers with food allergies, visit the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation website.
What About Other Types of Allergies?
Dairy and egg allergies are common, but so are other types of food allergies. We’ll be examining other common allergens in our next post, along with 5 tips to handling your baby’s food allergies and sensitivities:
Part Four: Wheat, Nut, & Soy Allergies
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