Food Allergies in Babies

Food allergies in babies

Food allergies are said to affect 4 – 6% of children. It is most common among babies and children. However, it can appear at any age group. Babies are more likely to develop food allergies if there is a history of eczema or asthma in the family. In these conditions, it is advisable to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months after her birth. If that is not possible, consult a paediatrician to learn about the best formula which can be given to your baby. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Food which caused a mild reaction on one occasion can cause a severe reaction on another. Treatment given is according to the severity of the allergy.

What is Food Allergy?

Food allergy is a serious medical condition which can also prove to be fatal at times. It is basically an immune system reaction that takes 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 there are varying levels of severity that 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 colour of the face or lips
  • Lightheadedness
  • Respiratory problem
  • Losing consciousness
  • Trouble while swallowing or hoarse voice/cry
  • Weak pulse
  • Anaphylaxis (a life-threatening condition which 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 who are from families with a history of allergies, and 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% 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

How is Food Allergy Diagnosed in Infants?

On suspecting an allergic reaction in your baby, is to consult an allergist. The allergist will take details of the baby’s 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. 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. A mild allergic symptom can be treated with an antihistamine or with an albuterol inhaler (in case of mild wheezing). 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 her 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 paediatric allergist or paediatric dermatologist on how to do so.
  • Breastfeed Your Baby: Breastfeeding may curb the chances of allergy since mother’s milk is rich in antibodies thereby developing a healthy immune system. Moreover, if a child is given mother’s milk, he 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: In case you cannot breastfeed your baby due to high-risk allergies, you can give her 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 which the family does not eat.
  • Regular Intake of Common Food Allergens: Include common food allergens your baby can tolerate in her daily diet on a regular basis. By doing so, your baby’s tolerance level to these foods will increase. This may prevent food allergy in future.

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

crying baby

FAQs

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 question 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 nut and peanut. Earlier the first allergic reaction, 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 a respiratory problem, swelling and anaphylaxis are less likely to outgrow allergies. If we go by gender, boys are more likely to grow tolerance than girls.

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.

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

Also Read: Milk Allergy In Babies