Could my baby have a food allergy?
We show you the easy-to-spot symptoms, explain what to do next and share mums’ stories on allergies that affect around 7% of babies
6 signs your baby may have a food allergy
After feeding a particular food, your baby shows one or more of these...
- Skin reaction: blotchy, rashes, itchy patches
- Swelling around the mouth or sore, red, itchy eyes
- Runny nose and/or watery eyes
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- Shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties (could indicate a severe reaction – see below)
If your child shows any of these symptoms, talk to your GP for advice or call the NHS free on 111
When to call 999
If your baby is having breathing difficulties, suddenly goes pale or loses consciousness, call 999 for an ambulance immediately.
Which foods are most likely to cause a reaction?
80% of allergic reactions are due to just 8 foods, according to Kirsten Davies of The Food Remedy. The allergy culprits are:
- cow's milk – the most common food allergy in the UK
- tree nuts (walnuts, pecans)
- eggs (often the egg white part)
Expert advice - how to feed a baby with a food allergy
Before the age of 6 months, experts advise avoiding giving your baby these foods (see above) that are most likely to cause an allergy. This is particularly important if you, your partner or your baby has a history of allergies (including asthma and eczema as well as food allergies).
"Avoid giving your baby foods that are highly allergenic, such as citrus fruit, strawberries, tomatoes and peppers, before 6 months," says Lindsey McManus from Allergy UK. "You should also avoid gluten-based foods, fish, soft cheeses or eggs initially, as they're most likely to cause food allergies."
The NHS Start4Life booklet, Introducing solid foods, states, "While variety in your baby’s diet is really important, it’s important to introduce cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, nuts, peanuts, peanut products, seeds, fish and shellfish one at a time and not before 6 months. Give them to your baby in very small amounts and watch carefully for any signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction.”
Mums share their food allergy experiences...
Judging by our mums' comments, it seems it's pretty apparent if your baby's having some sort of an allergic reaction.
“We’ve mainly had reactions in the nappy department,” laughs sunny5. “We avoid parsnips as twice they've gone straight through him.
“Also I once gave him a tomato flavoured crisp and it gave him little spots around his mouth and chin. I expected the same with fresh tomato but he was fine!”
"I gave my LO weetabix for the 1st time 2wks ago (aged 6 months) and within 30 mins of him having it his eye swelled up, he was violently sick, wheezy and full of a rash that looked like nettle stings (apparently called hives), says ImpatientUK.
"I managed to get him to the docs and we were told to keep Weetabix of the menu as there was something in it that didn't agree with him. I've been watching what i've been giving him - this isn't too bad as i mainly give him homecooked food."
"My 11 month old has just developed an allergy to cheese, having previously eaten it without a problem since 6 months," shares iwantanotherpls. "She gets a red rash with raised white spots where it comes into contact with her skin."
Mummyx5 has a family of those with allergens: "Both my boys have an allergy/intolerance to milk/lactose and it now appears that the youngest may very well have an oat allergy (don't know about any other grains yet but chances are there may be another!)
"He has been having ready brek (before we discovered allergy) in the mornings and as he's trying new foods etc we were putting down the occasional 'bum explosions' and smelly wind down to that.
"However, the last 2 occasions he's had ready brek he's been sick halfway thru and did the same last nite when I gave him a dinner which inc some heinz pasta shapes (the new multi-grain one!) and he was sick halfway through.
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"Oats and oatmeal have been the only co-inciding factor and he's absolutely fine on everything else."
And Tink89xx has been learning all about the allergy, after learning her daughter has a Cow's Milk Allergy.
"My dd only has a cma however a lot of foods contain cows milk or traces of milk so check the back of packets etc I bought ready grated carrots once and they had traces of milk so your be surprised what you find along the way."
Does your baby have a food allergy or an intolerance?
What is the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance?
Food allergy and food intolerance are often confused. Symptoms of severe food allergic reaction are often immediate and include:
- Tingling of the lips
- Swelling of the lips/tongue/throat
- Projectile vomiting
- Difficulty to breathe
- Feeling faint, weak and collapsing.
Typical symptoms of food intolerance are often delayed and include:
- An urgent need to go to the toilet
- Skin rashes
- Joint pain
- Runny nose
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Which food is your child allergic to?
We polled 413 mums and asked: does your baby have a food allergy? 93% of you said no, 3% said yes. Of those that had an allergy, these are the foods they were allergic to:
- Milk - 48%
- Eggs - 31%
- Tomato - 21%
- Kiwi fruit - 17%
- Nuts - 14%
- Strawberries - 14%
- Banana - 7%
- Cherry - 7%
- Fish - 7%
- Shellfish - 3%
- Pear - 3%
- Melon - 3%
- Lentils - 3%
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