Rice can trigger a severe allergic reaction in babies

According to new research by Australian doctors, contrary to the current view of it as a hypo-allergenic foodstuff, rice can trigger a severe allergic reaction in babies.

A team of specialists at Sydney's Westmead Hospital have found that cases of food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) which had been triggered by rice were more severe, requiring resuscitation with intravenous fluids in four children.

The team analysed incidents of FPIES at the children's hospital over a 16 year period and found that in 31 infants under 12 months, rice accounted for 26 episodes in 14 children, and was the sole trigger of enterocolitis in nine children.

Cow's milk and soy protein - more commonly reported triggers - accounted for 30 episodes in ten and seven children respectively.

Some foods can induce diarrhoea or vomiting within hours of ingestion, symptoms that are often mistaken for an intra-abdominal surgical emergency or sepsis but cases triggered by rice were more severe.

The team say the study highlights that rice, a food commonly thought to be "hypoallergenic", is a significant trigger of FPIES and they say doctors need to be aware that rice has this potential and that reactions are more severe than those caused by cow's milk or soy milk.

FPIES causes vomiting and diarrhoea and was often considered to be triggered by milk and soy and sometimes vegetables, meats and grains.

Professor Andrew Kemp, who led the study says FPIES is a relatively rare disorder compared with widespread egg and peanut allergies and eczema but the severity of the symptoms from the gut inflammation mean the disorder is often misdiagnosed as blood poisoning or an acute stomach problem requiring surgery.

Professor Kemp says as it involves very young children who often get very sick it is important to be able to give the correct diagnosis quickly and this extra information about a leading and very severe trigger may help in doing that.

The study is published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

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