Food Allergies in Babies

Often parents are told that food allergies in babies are uncommon. However, the statistics prove otherwise. 1 in 18 children suffers from food allergies. If a child does not eat a particular food, it does not always mean that the child is allergic to that food. In all probabilities the child does not like the food, hence, it refuses to eat. Let us first understand what are food allergies.

What are Food Allergies?

Food allergy is an immune response by the body to a food that the body is allergic to. Often the body makes an antibody, which tells the immune system to fight the intruder. The body therefore releases histamines. These histamines cause allergic symptoms.

Signs of Food Allergies in Babies

The time taken to display symptoms can vary from one child to another and can range from a few minutes to a few hours. Here are some of the common signs exhibited.

  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Constipation
  • Ear Infections
  • Swelling
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Collic
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Severe allergic reactions – It refers to reactions in the whole body, which include wheezing, swelling of the face, tongue, lips, and difficulty in breathing.

In case of severe reactions, medical help should be sought immediately. If an allergy to a certain food is hereditary, the symptoms of the allergies to that food is not apparent till the baby has eaten the food a few times, the symptoms might develop after that particular food product is consumed a few times. Indirect exposure to allergic food too can cause complications. It means that if a baby is allergic to eggs, then eggs eaten through cakes and cookies are also to be counted in the exposure, although indirect. The other indirect way is if the mother has eaten an egg, while she is still breastfeeding the child.

Common Food Allergies

Food allergies can be caused due to direct consumption of a food or through the mother’s milk. Therefore, it is important that the mother keeps a watch on what she is eating and checks if the food she is consuming is causing an allergy in the baby. In such a situation, the mother should avoid the food till after she has breastfed the baby. When you introduce new food to your baby remember to keep a gap of 10 to 12 days. At the same it is always better if you introduce only one new food at a time. In case of an allergy it will be easy for you to find out, which food is causing the allergy. Generally speaking, a child can be allergic to any food, but there are some foods which are more problematic than the rest. Statistics have shown that the following common food products account for 80% of allergies in babies.

  • Milk, especially cow milk
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Peanuts
  • Fish, especially salmon and tuna fish
  • Shellfish, shrimp, crab, and lobsters
  • Tree-nuts like walnuts, cashew, etc.

How to Prevent

It is difficult to prevent these allergies altogether, but they can be prevented if adequate care is taken. There are many opinions in regard to preventing food allergies. Some pediatricians opine that breastfeeding babies for a longer period of time protects them from potential allergy causing allergens. This advice should be followed, especially where either one of the parent suffers from allergies. You can try alternative food products if the baby is allergic to a certain food. For example, in case of allergy to milk, you can give non-allergic formula or you can try soy formulated food products.

These allergies do not pose a threat to the babies. It has been observed that most of the food allergies disappear after a few years. Then the food can be reintroduced after the child grows up.

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