When your baby starts solids, one of the chief concerns on your mind is likely to be: ‘Does my baby have a food allergy?’. Considering that more than one third of parents share the same suspicion, you are not alone!
Food allergies mainly depend upon the child’s family history and your place of residence. For example, peanut allergies are common in US, UK and Australia while fish and seafood allergies are more common in south east Asia and southern Europe.
What causes Food Allergies in Babies ?
A food allergy occurs when the body overreacts and mistakenly fights off something that isn’t usually considered dangerous. So when a baby eats a new food, his immune system thinks it is harmful and the body starts producing Histamine which may cause the symptoms of allergy. This mostly occurs in babies whose parents or siblings have a history of food allergy as their genes are programmed to fight that particular food.
How do I know if my Baby has a Food Allergy ?
- Most babies who develop food allergies have a family history of allergy.
- A baby with eczema before 3 months of life has a 20% chance of developing a food allergy later in life.
- As soon as a food is eaten, if a rash or itchiness develops around the mouth, your baby is likely to be allergic to that food.
Most Common Foods that cause Allergies in Babies
- Other Nuts – Cashew, Hazel Nuts
Less Common Allergy-causing Foods
Celery, soya, mustard, pine nuts, kiwi fruit.
Although these are the most common foods seen to cause allergies in children, the fact is that a baby can develop an allergy to any food. It is thus essential for parents to be vigilant when trying out a new food for baby and to watch out for any sign of an allergy.
Signs & Symptoms of Food Allergies in Babies
Mild to moderate food allergy mostly involves the skin, respiratory system and gut.
- Red itchy rash around mouth or body
- Mildly swollen lips, tongue and face
- Swollen red watery eyes
- Sneezing and runny nose
- Coughing and sneezing
- Colicky tummy pain
In some cases, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or Anaphylaxis that can be life threatening. A reaction as severe as these require immediate medical attention:
- Wheezing or asthma-like attack
- Severe swelling of lips and tongue, blocking the airway
- Loss of consciousness and collapsing
How soon can we detect a Food Allergy?
Sometimes an allergy can be detected as soon as the baby tries the new food; sometimes it may take hours or days to develop. In allergies that develop late, it is difficult to identify the cause since the child will have eaten a variety of foods in the meantime.
A useful tip to know if your baby is allergic to a food – write down the different foods your baby eats every day and record the symptoms you notice.
If you think your baby has an allergy to a particular food, consult your doctor rather than treating by yourself. For more information, read this detailed report from NICE.
What should I do if my baby develops a Food Allergy?
Irrespective of the severity of the allergy, stop the food and consult your doctor immediately. If the allergy is severe your doctor will order some tests to confirm the diagnosis.
How can I prevent my baby from getting a Food Allergy?
The following steps can help prevent a food allergy especially if your baby has a family history of allergies:
- Breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months.
- Introduce solids only after 6 months.
- Introduce foods one by one following the 3 day rule ( especially with a family history of allergy)
- Avoid introducing new foods in the evenings or weekends (this is because medical help can be delayed if your baby does develop an allergy)
- Extended breastfeeding also helps, since breast milk has the ability to reduce the risk of allergies.
Some pediatricians recommend introducing allergenic foods after 8 months, but it has now been proven that if there is no family history of allergy, then almost all foods can be introduced after 6 months of age, except salt, sugar, honey and cow’s milk.
Living with a Food Allergy
If your baby has been diagnosed with a particular food allergy , avoid the food entirely. Inspect every packaged product for the allergen, and if you are not sure about a food product then it is better to avoid it entirely.
Most children outgrow their allergies, but it is essential for parents to stock up on anti-allergens as per your doctor’s advice for any emergency.
Talking about food allergy in one article is not possible as it covers a range of topics such as milk protein allergy, ceilac disease and much more. We’ll continue to talk about food allergies in the coming articles, so keep watching this space!
2. Allergy UK