According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 3 million children under the age of 18 in the United States suffered from a food allergy in 2007. This includes your infant, and if you're a first time parent, you might not know what to look for, or how food allergies can impact your baby's health and development. Luckily, there are several simple symptoms to watch for and ways to combat food allergies in infants:
Is It a Food Allergy or Food Sensitivity?
If you've never dealt with a food allergy or sensitivity before, you might not understand the difference between the two conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, the two different conditions can have similar symptoms, which can be confusing.
However, what makes these two issues very dissimilar is that an allergy involves a whole body, immune system reaction to the food. According to WebMD, the symptoms of food allergies in infants include:
Swollen lips or tongue
Hives or red patches, especially around the mouth
These symptoms will occur within a few minutes to hours after your infant tries a new baby food.
In comparison, a food sensitivity generally only involves digestive issues, such as gas, fussiness, bloating or diarrhea. If your baby gets a little fussy after trying a new baby food, the issue could be a sensitivity. However, if the fussiness and crying continue, it's important to search for another culprit, such as constipation or colic.
Foods To Watch Out For
Although babies can develop a food allergy or sensitivity to any type of food, there are common culprits to watch for.
According to Baby Center, there are eight groups of foods that are responsible for almost 90 percent of allergic reactions in babies:
Fish and Shellfish
Tree Nuts – this includes walnuts and cashews
If you're concerned about food allergies, or there is a history of food allergies in your family, it's best to speak to your pediatrician before introducing any of these types of foods into your baby's diet. Your pediatrician might recommend waiting until your infant is at least one before introducing dairy products, or two to three before you give them peanuts or tree nuts.
What You Can Do
If you're feeling helpless in the face of food allergies, there are many ways to protect your baby. For example, watch your baby for any of the symptoms of an allergic reaction when introducing any type of food. If you notice a mild reaction, make a note of it and speak to your pediatrician. They might recommend trying the food again just to be sure, or avoiding the food until further testing can be performed.
Contacting an infant allergy clinic is another simple way to determine which foods are causing a reaction in your little one. Even if the allergic reaction was minor the first time, the symptoms can worsen if your baby is consistently exposed to the food in the future. This is why it's vital to contact your pediatrician or an allergist if you suspect your baby has a food allergy.
In rare cases, your infant can suffer from a severe reaction to certain foods. If your baby suffers from severe swelling of the tongue, face or lips, is having trouble breathing or begins vomiting severely after eating, don't hesitate to call an ambulance. These are potentially life-threatening symptoms that must be treated immediately.
The idea of your baby suffering from a severe allergic reaction to a certain food can be scary, but there are several things you can do to manage this issue. Luckily, the majority of children outgrow their food allergies and sensitives as they enter adolescence!