Food Allergies in Babies: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Food Allergies in Babies

Food allergies are said to affect 4 – 6% of children. However, it can appear in any age group. Babies are more likely to develop food allergies if there is a history of eczema or asthma in the family. It is advisable to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months after their birth in these conditions. If that is not possible, consult a pediatrician to learn about the best formula you can give to your baby. Symptoms of allergies can range from mild to severe. Food that caused a mild reaction on one occasion can cause a severe reaction on another. For this reason, the treatment given is according to the severity of the allergy.

Video: Food Allergies in Babies: Symptoms and Prevention

What is Food Allergy?

Food allergy is a serious medical condition that can also prove to be fatal at times. It is basically an immune system reaction that comes into effect soon after eating a certain food. Even eating a small portion of the allergy-causing food could be dangerous.

Can Babies Have Food Allergies?

Babies under 12 months of age can develop an intolerance to certain foods at times, but varying levels of severity differ from child to child. It is easy to confuse the symptoms of food allergies with other conditions because these signs can seem similar to those of several other illnesses or medical conditions; the key is to know the correct signs or symptoms of food allergies and seek a doctor’s advice at the earliest.

Baby eating food

Food Allergy in Babies – Symptoms

Listed below are the signs of food allergies in infants:

  • Hives (red spots which look very similar to mosquito bites) that are spreading
  • Itchy skin rash (these appear mostly in the mouth or throat and at times appear on any part of the body)
  • Itchy throat and tongue
  • Watery eyes
  • Swollen face, lips, or tongue (affecting speech)
  • Rashes around the mouth
  • Continuous sneezing
  • A runny nose or blocked nose
  • Itchy and red eyes (with eye shooters)
  • Wheezing sound
  • Breathing problem
  • Continuous coughing
  • Nausea/dizziness/vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach ache
  • Pale or blue color of the face or lips
  • Lightheadedness
  • Respiratory problem
  • Losing consciousness
  • Trouble while swallowing or hoarse voice/cry
  • Weak pulse
  • Anaphylaxis (a life-threatening condition that can affect breathing and send the body into a shock)

How Does a Baby Get a Food Allergy?

Babies with health conditions like asthma and eczema can be prone to allergies. It is also more common among children from families with a history of allergies which can increase in intensity within the first few months after birth.

Which Babies Are at a Higher Risk of Developing Food Allergies?

The inclination to develop allergies to dietary and inhalant allergens is more often genetically determined. 12% of children with no family history of allergy, 30 – 50% of children with a single parental allergy, and 60 – 80% of children with biparental allergies are more prone to developing food allergies.

Foods That Can Cause Allergies in Babies

Around 160 foods are allergenic in nature. The names of some common foods which can cause allergies in babies are listed below:

  • Cow’s Milk
  • Eggs
  • Nuts like walnuts, peanuts, cashew nuts, etc
  • Seafood
  • Soybean
  • Wheat
  • Sesame
  • Shellfish like prawns and shrimps
  • Tomato
  • Chickpeas & chickpea flour

How is Food Allergy Diagnosed in Infants?

If you suspect an allergic reaction in your baby, do not waste time consulting an allergist. The allergist will take details of the baby and the family’s medical history. After that, he will prescribe a series of tests for the baby, starting with a physical examination. After a physical examination, skin tests, blood tests, or elimination tests will be conducted to identify allergens.

Baby at the doctor

What to Do if The Baby Shows an Allergic Reaction to Food?

It is a common thing to see parents worry or get anxious seeing their little ones suffer. However, the first thing you should do when you see your baby’s skin break out in a rash is to stay calm and consult a doctor immediately.

How are Food Allergies in Babies Treated?

Only an allergist will be able to find the right treatment for your baby. One can treat a mild allergic symptom with an antihistamine or an albuterol inhaler (in case of mild wheezing). A severe food-allergic reaction has to be treated with adrenaline which is often administered through an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g., Epi-Pen). Till help does not arrive, the baby should be kept lying down with the legs elevated. However, make them sit up in case your baby is experiencing respiratory problems.

Can You Prevent Your Baby From Getting Food Allergies?

The occurrence of food allergies in babies can be reduced or even prevented through some simple steps listed below:

  • Control Your Baby’s Eczema: Keep the inflammation of eczema down and under control. Talk to a pediatric allergist or pediatric dermatologist on how to do so.
  • Breastfeed Your Baby: Breastfeeding may curb the chances of allergy since the mother’s milk is rich in antibodies, thereby developing a healthy immune system. Moreover, if a child is given mother’s milk, they will not be required to take cow’s milk or formula milk which is allergenic in nature.
  • Avoiding Certain Foods: To be on the safer side, in case you see that your baby becomes fussy when you breastfeed after you have had some particular food, try and avoid eating it, at least till the time your baby feeds on your milk. However, there is no proof that your baby may get allergic because of your food intake.
  • High-Risk Allergies: If you cannot breastfeed your baby due to high-risk allergies, you can give them hypoallergenic formulas. The protein in this formula is broken down into small fragments, which help in preventing allergic reactions.
  • Avoid Soybean Formulas: Babies with high-risk allergies should not be given soy formulas. Soy protein can also cause allergies in babies.
  • Introducing Allergy-Causing Food to Your Baby at Around 6 Months of Age: Common allergy-causing food should be given one at a time while introducing solids to your baby. It is important to do this with much caution and only give the baby one food at a time. Keep in mind the family history of allergies while doing so. However, you may not give those common food allergens to your baby avoided by the family.
  • Regular Intake of Common Food Allergens: Include the common food allergens in amounts your baby can tolerate in their daily diet. By doing so, your baby’s tolerance level to these foods will increase. This may also prevent food allergies in the future. However, completely avoid cow’s milk for your little one…

However, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician before introducing any allergenic food to your baby.

crying baby


Here is a list of frequently asked questions to answer queries on food allergies in babies.

1. How Common Are Food Allergies in Infants?

Food allergies are quite common among infants. About 6 – 8% of infants suffer from food allergies.

2. Are Food Allergies Inherited in Babies?

Babies developing allergies can be hereditary, although it is not certain. Children born of parents with allergic tendencies are more prone to it.

3. Can They be Outgrown?

This is one of the most common questions parents ask when their child is first diagnosed with an allergy. Children who don’t respond well to milk, egg, or soy are more likely to outgrow their allergies than children allergic to shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts. The earlier the first allergic reaction, the greater are the chances of the baby to outgrow it. Other than these factors, children with a history of only mild to moderate reactions, being allergic to only one food, and having eczema as the only symptom are more likely to outgrow their allergies with age. On the other hand, children with severe allergic symptoms like respiratory problems, swelling, and anaphylaxis are less likely to outgrow allergies.

4. What is The Difference Between Food Allergy And Food Intolerance?

Food allergy causes an immune system reaction that can affect numerous organs in the body. It causes a range of symptoms and can be life-threatening. On the other hand, food intolerance most often causes digestive problems and is generally not serious in the short term.

Babies suffering from food allergies can experience dangerous, life-threatening allergic reactions due to the intake of the allergic food. Take necessary measures and precautions to avoid any serious situations.

Also Read: Milk Allergy In Babies

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