ARA) - As the number of people with food allergies continues to rise, many are asking: "Are food allergies genetic?"
While a specific "food allergy gene," has not been identified yet, research shows that if one or both parents have a history of any type of food allergy the allergy risk is greater for their children.
A child's chance of developing an allergy is 40 percent if one parent has an allergy, according to a University of Michigan study. If both parents have allergies, the chance of a food allergy rises to about 75 percent for each child, the study indicates.
explains Dr. Steven Yannicelli, a registered dietician and director of science and education for Nutricia North America. "Cow's milk allergy (CMA) is the most common food allergy in infants, affecting approximately 200,000 infants. However, because the symptoms are so similar to other common childhood ailments, it is often misdiagnosed by general pediatricians."
Babies with a milk protein allergy have difficulty processing the complex protein chains found in milk-based baby formula. The child often experiences one or more of the following symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, gas, skin rash, wheezing, low or no weight gain, extreme irritability (often mistaken for colic) and an overall failure to thrive.
Babies with milk protein allergy need to have all milk protein removed from their diets. In many cases the infant cannot tolerate other infant formulas, like soy and milk-based hydrolysates. If the infant is breastfed, the nursing mom may need to eliminate all dairy products and other sources of milk protein and other offending food proteins from her diet. If the baby is on formula, parents should switch her from the typical milk-based formula to an "elemental" amino acid-based formula. An elemental infant formula is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, instead of the partial or complete protein chains found in other formulas that milk allergic infants cannot digest.
"If switching formulas, it is important that parents select an amino acid-based formula such as Neocate, which is hypoallergenic and manufactured in a 100 percent milk-free environment," says Yannicelli. "The peace of mind that comes with knowing that a product is made in an entirely milk- and protein-free environment is invaluable."
While all new or expecting parents should be aware of the signs of cow's milk allergy, it is especially important for parents who suffer from food allergies themselves to be on the lookout.
If you suspect your child might have a food allergy, visit www.testforallergy.com for a free test and information you can download and discuss with your baby's pediatrician.