Useful information on baby food allergies and intolerance, with advice on symptoms and testing for allergies such as wheat, milk and egg.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an allergic reaction to a specific food. Your baby may also experience a food intolerance, this is not an allergic reaction, but an unpleasant reaction to eating a particular food.
Signs and symptoms of food allergies or intolerance
- Mouth or face swelling
- Itchy mouth and throat
- Rash or cramping
- Nausea or vomiting
- Runny nose (with clear secretions), watery eyes, seasonal sneezing and wheezing
- Chronic cough
- Circles under eyes
- Frequent colds and/or ear infections
- Frequent skin rashes, such as eczema or hives
- Night coughs and a stuffy nose in the morning
- Diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating
- Lots of intestinal gas
- Fatigue, behaviour problems, headaches
The above symptoms may be caused by other causes than food allergies and should be referred to a doctor.
A reaction to a food allergy will look different in each child. In an extreme case a child may develop a life threatening condition called anaphylactic shock. This will require immediate medical attention.
The most common causes of food allergies
- Cow's milk
- Egg whites
- Nuts (particularly peanuts)
- Citrus fruits
There are two things you can do as a parent to reduce your child's susceptibility to food allergies and reduce the severity of food allergies:
- Wait until your baby is 6 months old to introduce solids.
- Wait 4 days between introducing a new food to your baby.
When you begin to wean your baby you need to be absolutely sure that the foods you are introducing her to are not causing a reaction. It can take three or four days for a reaction to show up. If you feed your baby one food at a time and wait four days before introducing a new food, you will instantly know the food your baby is having a reaction to and can stop immediately.
If you feed your baby several new foods at a time and she develops a reaction to one of them, you will not know which food she may be allergic to. You will have to experiment to get the reaction again which is not ideal if the reactions were severe.
Be particularly careful when introducing seafood, peanuts and honey. Peanuts and seafood are likely to cause the most severe reactions, whilst honey is dangerous for children under the age of one because of the danger of botulism poisoning. Before the age of twelve months, a child's intestinal track is not mature enough to inhibit the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which is often found in honey.