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How can I tell if my toddler has a food allergy?

A food allergy occurs when your child develops an over-reaction to food that is usually harmless to the body. This can range from a subtle rash to dramatic breathing difficulties, which can occur within seconds to even days after.

If you spot any of these common symptoms in your child, consult a doctor.

• Rashes He may get rashes, known as hives, around the mouth. These are raised, red and itchy bumps that look like large mosquito bites. Food-related allergies can also cause eczema.

• Itchy mouth, eyes or nose Look out for sneezing and if he keeps rubbing his eyes and nose. He may also complain of an itchy or tingling mouth and tongue.

• Swollen eyes and lips While the sudden swelling may seem frightening, it’s not dangerous if your child is otherwise well, talking and breathing comfortably.

• Breathing difficulties and wheezing This can be life-threatening and will require prompt treatment. If you do not know how to handle such situations, seek medical attention immediately.

• Vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea These symptoms are similar to those of food poisoning. But the difference is that in a food-allergy reaction, your child will not have fever and the vomiting and diarrhoea usually resolves quickly.

Sometimes, fresh blood or mucus can be found in the stools. Take note to see if the same reaction occurs the next time your child eats the same food.

My baby has just thrown up. Should I keep her hydrated? 

A gastrointestinal bug is one of the most common reasons for vomiting in children. Other causes include reflux and head injuries. Baby could also vomit after a coughing fit, she adds.

Whatever the cause, always let your little one rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes first. Her stomach is likely to be irritated, so she might throw up again if you give her a drink immediately.

There is a worry that she could choke on her own vomit, and get an infection if some of it goes into her lungs.

If Baby doesn’t retch after 10 to 15 minutes, give her a teaspoonful of water to sip on. Increase the amount every five to 10 minutes to keep her hydrated. See a doctor if she is showing signs of dehydration. You can tell that your little one is not getting enough fluids if she is not wetting as many diapers, her lips and tongue look parched, or her eyes look sunken. Her fontanelles (the soft spots on her head) may also appear sunken.


These questions were answered by Dr Dawn Lim, consultant paediatrician at Kinder Clinic at Paragon. Got a question? E-mail us at