Does Your Baby Have a Food Allergy?

Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies in Babies

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The most common trigger of food allergy symptoms in young babies is cow’s milk, followed by soy and eggs. Some infants may react to proteins from these foods in a mother’s breastmilk; others will react only when fed the food directly.

If you are concerned that your baby may have food allergies because of a family history of food allergies, or worrisome symptoms that your baby is experiencing, talk to your pediatrician.

Some signs that your baby may have a food allergy or sensitivity are:


Colic isn’t a diagnosis, it is a descriptive term that means your baby cries inconsolably for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for at least three weeks. Doctors now believe that some babies with colic actually have acid reflux (GERD). A percentage of those babies may have a cow’s milk allergy that is causing their reflux.

Your pediatrician may prescribe reflux medication or suggest switching to a different formula.

Skin reactions

  • Hives (raised red welts that move around the body)
  • Eczema (a scaly, itchy rash that may become very red and raw, particularly with scratching)
  • Severe diaper rash

Breastfeeding can help reduce eczema symptoms in infants at high risk of allergies. (A high-risk baby is a baby with at least one parent or sibling with allergies.) Recent studies have found that exclusive breastfeeding or supplementing with hypoallergenic hydrolyzed formula for the first four months of baby's life can reduce the incidence and severity of eczema flare-ups in high-risk babies or babies who already have symptoms of eczema.

Your pediatrician may recommend oatmeal baths, nonsteroid lotions such as petroleum jelly, cold compresses, or wet wraps to soothe your baby's itchy skin. For serve itching, your pediatrician may also recommend antihistamines or steroid cremes.


Chronic allergy symptoms such as watery eyes and runny nose may be due to allergies to pets, dust, or other allergens in your baby's environment. If your baby's symptoms appear right after the introduction of a new food, removing that food from his diet for a few weeks before re-introducing it will help you to figure out if the food is the source of your baby's symptoms.


  • Abdominal pain. Some signs may be that your baby cries inconsolably, and may pull her knees up to her chest.
  • Vomiting
  • Loose stools with mucus or blood in them.

If your baby has chronic vomiting or blood or mucus in her diaper, your pediatrician may recommend testing to determine the cause of the problem. Your doctor may also suggest switching to a prescription hydrolyzed formula.

Severe, full-body reactions (anaphylaxis)

Anaphylaxis is rare in babies. It is most likely to occur right after your baby has been introduced to a new food or formula. Any of the above symptoms may occur, plus:

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening emergency. If the baby is having trouble breathing, or has a swollen face, tongue, or throat, call 911 immediately.


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Husby, Steffen. Food Allergy as Seen by a Paediatric Gastroenterologist Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition. 47():S49-S52, November 2008.

Lewis-Jones S, Mugglestone MA; Guideline Development Group. Management of atopic eczema in children aged up to 12 years: summary of NICE guidance. BMJ. 2007;335:1263-1264.

Sicherer, Scott H. Clinical Aspects of Gastrointestinal Food Allergy in Children. PEDIATRICS Vol. 111 No. 6 June 2003, pp. 1609-1616

Vandenplas, Yvan, etc al. Pediatric Gastroesophageal Reflux Clinical Practice Guidelines: Joint Recommendations of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) and the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition. 49(4):498-547, October 2009.

Vartabedian, Brian, MD. Colic Solved. Ballantine Books; February 2007.