sense and sensitivity:
how to cope with baby allergies

If you notice that your little one becomes ill after eating, you may wonder if they have developed an allergy. About one in 12 children is allergic to some food. Here's what you need to know.

understanding allergies in children

what is a food allergy?

An allergic reaction happens when your baby's immune system gets confused. Instead of tackling inflections, it flares up in response to protein in the food. Usually symptoms show up within a few minutes of eating the food culprit, but in some cases the reaction can be delayed. Some allergies babies will often grow out of, like milk and eggs, but others are more serious. Peanut allergies tend to stick around for life and can be really serious.

what causes food allergies in babies?

It's mostly down to genetics. If you or your partner have a family history of asthma, eczema, hay fever or other food allergies, your baby is more likely to have them too. Breastfeeding your child for the first six months can help to lower the risk of allergies developing, as they get your antibodies through your milk. If you've decided to bottle feed, you can tell your GP about allergies in the family and they should give you some recommendations for formula milk.

what are the signs of baby food allergies?

If your little one has an allergy, you might notice a few of the following symptoms:

  • sickness and diarrhoea
  • itchy throat and tongue
  • swollen lips and throat
  • runny (or blocked) nose
  • itchy, sore and red eyes
  • itchy skin or a rash
  • coughing
  • wheezing

In more severe reactions, your child may have difficulty breathing or become very irritable or tired. If this happens, call 999 right away.

what does a delayed reaction look like?

Delayed reactions are a bit harder to spot, because you might not think about their afternoon snack later on in the evening. But signs to look out for include:

  • colic
  • reflux
  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • bloody or mucousy poo
  • eczema

These symptoms can have many different causes, though, so on their own they don't prove that your child has an allergy.

how should i deal with my baby's food allergy?

When you're weaning your baby it's a good idea to introduce foods which often cause allergies – such as cow's milk, eggs or nuts – one at a time. That way, if your baby has a reaction, you'll know what caused it. Follow your doctor's advice on avoiding trigger foods if an allergy is diagnosed: for severe allergies, you may need to avoid exposure to even small traces, but after a while you'll soon find planning meals becomes second nature.