How To Identify And Prevent Food Allergies In Babies

Sameer C
·6-min read

Babies are sensitive by nature and more prone to allergic reactions. However, you won’t usually know their dietary restrictions until they start solid foods around the age of 6 or 8 months. It’s not necessary that all babies are allergic to some food item, but some babies are more likely to be allergic due to sensitive digestive systems, genes, and/or poor immune system.

It’s important then for parents to know what to do if baby has an allergic reaction, the foods that trigger the allergy, and the course of treatment to avoid severe complications.

How To Introduce Solids To Your Baby

what to do if baby has allergic reaction
what to do if baby has allergic reaction

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There is very little chance you will know your baby is allergic to a specific food unless they have a reaction. That’s why parents need to be careful while administering new foods to babies.

Here are a few ways in which you can introduce foods so as to check for reaction and ease the food item into your baby’s digestive system.

  • Introduce one food at a time to your baby. This is important to identify which food caused the allergic reaction, in case your baby has one. If you try out too many foods on the same day, it will be difficult later to identify what triggered the allergy in the first place.

  • Be mindful when introducing the next food item. It does not matter the type or the order in which the food was introduced. You can try out a new food option every three to five days and see how your baby reacts to it. This process is about eliminating allergic food, not reducing the food choices for your baby. The more choices they have, the more adaptive their body will be in the long run.
    Ideally, within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby should be able to eat meat, cereal, vegetables, fruits, eggs and fish, along with breast milk or formula.

  • Check the quality of the food and expiration date on processed foods. You must make safe food choices. This means food should be fresh and if you’re feeding processed solids, then ensure that they are not past their expiration date. Store bought baby food should be thrown out by the ‘use by’ date.

If your baby is able to digest the foods you give him/her easily and doesn’t react to any foods, it’s safe to continue introducing more, slowly.

However, there are some common foods that most babies are typically allergic to due to their slow digestive system. So you may need to be careful while introducing these into their diet.

Common Foods Associated With Allergies

There are over 160 allergenic foods and that means your baby has that many possibilities of developing an allergic reaction. However, some foods can be more allergic than others. They have been identified as eight foods and food groups that have a 90 percent chance of causing an allergic reaction.

  1. Cow’s milk and other dairy products

  2. Eggs

  3. Peanuts

  4. Tree nuts (Walnuts or Almonds)

  5. Fish

  6. Shellfish

  7. Soy

  8. Wheat

It is possible that your baby might develop an allergy in his early months but it may go away as they grow up. In fact, some parents restrict certain foods in the hopes that their child will be able to fight the allergy better at an older age.

But there’s no evidence to back that theory. Children susceptible to developing a food allergy will do so at any age. And when it does, you should be able to identify it, thanks to a few prominent symptoms.

Food Allergy Symptoms To Watch Out For

what to do if baby has allergic reaction
what to do if baby has allergic reaction

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Food allergy symptoms usually appear within a couple of minutes or in a few hours after the food is consumed. If your child is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, they are having an allergic reaction.

  1. Hives

  2. Skin Rashes

  3. Swelling – face, lips or tongue

  4. Vomiting

  5. Diarrhoea

  6. Coughing or wheezing

  7. Breathing difficulty

  8. Loss of consciousness

  9. Blood in the stool

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about six percent of children under the age of two develop food allergies. There is also a chance for babies to have allergic reactions even before they start consuming them. This may be due to the mother being allergic to the food as well and passing it on during pregnancy.

Now, allergies can be divided into two types of reactions. Based on this assessment, kids are usually administered medications.

1. Mild Reaction

A mild reaction usually includes skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhoea, hives and more. Most of these can be managed at home and will reduce within a few hours or so.

It is advisable, though, to visit the paediatrician the first time your baby develops an allergy. They will then refer you to an allergist that specialises in allergies, who will do more thorough tests. This includes the skin test that involves placing liquid extracts of food allergens on the child’s forearm or back and then pricking the skin to see if there are reddish raised spots around there in 15 minutes.

A positive test will confirm that your child has a reaction to a food or food group.

Other tests include the blood test to check the blood for Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to specific foods. For the uninitiated, when you have an allergy, your immune system overreacts by producing more IgE antibodies that travel to cells that release chemicals. This causes an allergic reaction.

2. Anaphylactic Reaction

Some allergic reactions can be more severe than others.

If your child is having trouble breathing or swallowing, tightness in the chest or throat, change in voice, skin turning blue, loss of consciousness, and widespread hives, it’s all a sign of an anaphylactic reaction.

All of these symptoms are life-threatening and need immediate attention.

In such an instance, you’ll need to call the emergency services and until the paramedics arrive, make your child lie down and keep his/her feet elevated to prevent shock. If they stop breathing, you may need to administer CPR. In such a case, your child will need epinephrine at the earliest, which is generally administered through an EpiPen.

How To Prevent An Allergic Reaction?

what to do if baby has allergic reaction
what to do if baby has allergic reaction

Image Source: Pixabay

The best way to prevent having an allergic reaction is to avoid consuming that food. At the same time, parents need to be vigilant of the foods they buy and will need to check the labels for ingredients, in case their child is allergic to any of them.

If your child has had an anaphylactic reaction, chances are the paediatrician will recommend you to carry an EpiPen regularly. The doctor or pharmacist will educate you on how to use one. You will also need to speak and educate your child’s daycare on using the EpiPen and keeping it handy, in case of an allergic reaction. A medical ID on your child’s bag or neck identifying the allergic foods and the medicines that need to be given will also help reduce the risk factor.

On several occasions, babies outgrow their allergies and it may not bother them as they grow old. However, some allergies stay as you grow and could result in mild or severe reactions.

Either way, it is important to be ready for any kind of reaction and also educate your child to avoid foods that irritate their systems, especially when they aren’t under your direct supervision.

ALSO READ:

Food Allergy In Singapore – What You Need To Know To Keep Safe

A Guide To Common Food Allergies In Kids

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