DOCTORS at a children's hospital have reported two cases of a rare syndrome that can leave babies at risk of dying after developing a serious reaction to chicken, rice, cow's milk, soya or oats.
The babies can suffer severe vomiting and diarrhoea hours after eating some trigger foods which can cause hypovolemic shock, an emergency condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood through the body.
The cases of the illness, known as Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES), were revealed by doctors at the paediatric department at the National Children's Hospital in Tallaght, Dublin.
In one case, an eight-month-old boy was brought to the hospital's emergency department suffering hypovolemic shock after prolonged vomiting.
The doctors, led by Dr Katie Cunningham, suspected the child was suffering from FPIES and tested various potential culprit foods, the 'Irish Medical Journal' reported.
The child was asked to eat certain foods as part of the check including chicken and he started vomiting and suffering lethargy two hours afterwards.
The second case involved a seven-month-old baby. The two babies had to be given IV fluids and, having recovered, the doctors advised their parents on what they should avoid feeding them.
Dr Cunningham said: "Both our babies did very well, and are followed up in our outpatients intermittently. Neither were admitted since their diagnosis as they were well managed at home through diet control.
"We believe GPs and paediatricians need to be aware of the condition," she added.
Medics point out that because the condition it so rare it can often be misdiagnosed as an upset stomach – with around one in five babies already having progressed to hypovolemic shock by the time they are brought to hospital.
The list of potential solid foods which can cause this reaction is rising as doctors see more cases and get more insights.
They include poultry; cereals such as oats, barley and rye; and vegetables such as butternut squash, sweet potato and peas. It normally affects babies under nine months but it can also be seen in older children.
Symptoms which parents can look out for include vomiting, extreme lethargy, pale colour, and diarrhoea. Hypothermia has also been reported.
The babies tend to develop a tolerance for the culprit foods from the age of two or three years and the reasons for this immune reaction is still not fully understood.