According to Food Allergy Resource and Education, 32 million people in the United States have food allergies, including one out of every 13 children. When you have a food allergy, your immune system attacks the proteins in a food that’s usually harmless, creating an inflammatory response in your body.
The abnormal immune-response symptoms could be anything from an itchy mouth to a potentially life-threatening response called anaphylaxis. If you go into anaphylaxis, your airways narrow so that you can’t breathe.
Of course, the last thing you want to do is trigger an immune response when you start to give your baby solid foods. So how do you proceed?
At Regional Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center in Kingsport and Johnson City, Tennessee, and Abingdon, Virginia, we want to help you make your baby’s transition to solid foods safe and event-free. Our medical director, Shailee Madhok, MD, is a world-renowned, board-certified specialist in pediatric allergies.
Here, we provide a brief guide on how to introduce potential food allergens to your baby.
Be aware of the most common allergens
Not all foods trigger allergies. Although an allergic response can vary by individual, your main focus should be on finding out if your baby has an allergy, or even a sensitivity, to a particular food. To avoid confusion, introduce these foods just one at a time. Common allergens include:
- Cow’s milk
- Other dairy
- Sesame seeds and oil
If one or both parents has an allergy or sensitivity to any of the foods on the list, your baby has a higher chance of being allergic or sensitive, too. In such cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually advises introducing such foods earlier, rather than later, so that your child develops a tolerance.
You can introduce peanut products, for instance, by age three months.You should continue breastfeeding, though, if possible, because nursing reduces the risk of your baby developing wheezing or asthma.
Start slowly and one at a time
Your baby may not have symptoms related to an allergenic food until days after its introduction. Patiently introduce just one new food at a time, so you can easily identify which food has caused the trouble.
If Food #1 was well tolerated, keep that food in Baby’s diet and move on to Food #2. Again, don’t add another food for at least a few days, to make sure that your baby isn’t allergic.
If all is OK, gradually, carefully, add in other foods, one at a time. Within a few months, your baby should have a rich and varied diet of solid foods, filled with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Stop if there’s a reaction
Of course, if a new food triggers a reaction, you should stop giving it to your baby immediately. Your baby may have symptoms within minutes or not for several days. Symptoms of a food allergy include:
- Pink or red skin
Potentially dangerous symptoms include:
- Facial swelling
- Swollen lips or tongue
- Trouble breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Call 911 immediately if your baby has severe symptoms. If they have mild symptoms, make an appointment to see us.
We test your baby for allergies
Even if the symptoms you noticed were only mild, they could worsen with time and repeated exposure to the allergen. If you suspect a food allergy, we perform diagnostic tests, such as skin and blood tests. We may also have you bring in the suspected food, so the baby can consume a small amount under our watch, while we monitor for reactions.
If your baby is positive for allergies, we then tell you what foods to avoid. You may be able to substitute the allergenic food with a nonallergenic equivalent. For instance, if your baby is allergic to cow’s milk, they may be able to comfortably and safely consume goat’s milk.
Babies with severe allergies may have a reaction to the food even in very small amounts, including when inhaled. Therefore, we may supply you with an autoinjector pen filled with epinephrine, which can calm down an anaphylactic attack.
If you’re worried about food allergies in your baby, contact us for allergy testing and treatment today. Phone the office nearest you or use the online form.