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Starting Safe, Staying Safe

Reacting to Allergies

Along with the excitement that comes with introducing solid foods, may come concerns about whether baby will be allergic to some foods. There is no definite way to tell if baby will be allergic to a specific food, even if there is a family history.

The good news is that by knowing the common food allergens and the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions, you can minimize the risk for your baby.
 

Common food allergies 

A food allergy is an immune system response that happens soon after eating a certain, normally harmless food. Food allergies can be mild or severe. Allergic reactions can include itchy skin rashes and hives, breathing problems, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of consciousness, depending on the severity. Severe reactions are called anaphylaxis and require immediate medical attention.

According to Food Allergy Research and Education, the following 9 foods are responsible for 90 percent of all food allergies:

    • Cow’s milk
    • Eggs
    • Peanuts
    • Fish
    • Shellfish
    • Tree nuts, such as cashews and walnuts
    • Wheat
    • Sesame
    • Soy

Allergy or sensitivity?

If your baby does have a reaction to food, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s due to an allergy. Food can cause other reactions and illnesses which can be easily mistaken for an allergic reaction.

Some of these reactions include:

    • Food poisoning, which can cause diarrhea or vomiting. This is usually caused by bacteria in spoiled food or undercooked food
    • Drug effects from certain ingredients such as caffeine in soda or candy which can make your baby shaky or restless
    • Skin irritation, sometimes caused by acids in foods such as orange juice or tomato products
    • Diarrhea, which can occur in babies if they consume too much sugar such as that found in fruit juices or dried fruit

Food sensitivity can sometimes be confused for food allergy as well. Symptoms caused by food allergies develop soon after consuming the food while symptoms of food intolerance can be immediate or occur 12 to 24 hours after food is consumed. Symptoms of food intolerance can include headache, sweating, diarrhea and breathing problems.

Chemicals such as dyes and preservatives can sometimes cause reactions which can be mistaken for a food allergy. While it is common for children to be sensitive to these types of ingredients, it is rare to be allergic to them.

Reading the signs and symptoms of a food allergy

A food allergy reaction typically occurs shortly after a food is eaten. You should lookout for the following signs and symptoms:

    • Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
    • Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
    • Swelling
    • Breathing problems
    • Sneezing
    • Wheezing
    • Throat tightness
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Circulation symptoms
    • Pale skin
    • Light-headedness
    • Loss of consciousness

Avoiding allergic reactions

Studies show starting out life with a microbiome can ensure your child has a robust immune system, reducing the risk of allergy.

When first starting out with solid foods it’s a good idea to introduce new foods slowly and keep a food log to keep track of what baby is eating in order to identify the cause of potential reactions. Make sure you are only introducing one type of food allergen at a time so if baby does produce a reaction you are easily able to determine the culprit. 

Although you may feel apprehensive about introducing baby to common food allergens, research suggests that introducing them as early as possible is beneficial. The risk of developing a peanut allergy appears to be much lower in babies who had peanut introduced at about 6 months of age versus those who were exposed later.

There is no definite way to tell if baby will be allergic to a specific food, but you can help reduce the risks.  Speak with your healthcare professional about introducing potential allergens at the right time, know the signs and symptoms of allergy and keep a food log when starting solids with your baby.

Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only.  Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.

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