Babies and Common Food Allergies

When starting an infant on solids and introducing new foods to your baby or toddler, there are some common allergies parents should keep an eye out for. This is especially true if you have a family history of allergies, problems like eczema and asthma, or if a baby had an adverse reaction to milk- or soy-based formula. 

Some foods are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than others. The most common food allergies are to:

  • Milk 
  • Eggs 
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans

The FDA requires that the foods above be clearly labeled on packaged products, which makes it much easier for parents to avoid them. Of those eight foods, those that affect children under 4 most often are milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. 

Babies who are allergic to milk overreact to the protein's in cow's milk. This is the most common base for infant formula, and about 2 to 3 percent of infants are sensitive to milk. The good news: Most babies grow out of their milk allergy. Some babies are allergic to eggs. Common reactions include hives, eczema, flushing, digestive issues, runny nose, difficulty breathing, or rapid heart beat. Again, most babies grow out of this allergies and can eat eggs again by 5 years old. Reactions to nut allergies will likely be immediate and can be very dangerous. Advice is mixed on when you can give children nuts.

There is some evidence that giving children nuts earlier can help them avoid allergy, but it's important to talk to your doctor about when to introduce foods that have a higher risk of allergic reaction. 

You can keep that statistic low by reading food labels, introducing these foods at the right times for your child and knowing the signs and first aid treatment for allergic reactions.

Regardless of family history, most foods can be introduced one at a time as soon as your baby is old enough to start eating solid foods. Just make sure you're doing it slowly and cautiously -- see more on introducing solids food and avoiding food allergies.

Most Common Food Allergies - When to Introduce Allergenic Foods

  • Milk: Cow's milk should not be introduced until a child's first birthday. Prior to that, they should be breastfed or formula fed. 
  • Eggs: Previously parents were told to wait to introduce eggs until age 2; however, newer studies have found no reason for this. If you are concerned about your child being allergic, introduce eggs yolks before egg whites. 
  • Fish and Shellfish: It definitely shouldn't be among your child's first foods, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics you can introduce these foods to babies as long as they are well cooked. 
  • Tree Nuts: Be careful when introducing nuts because in addition to being a common food allergy, they can also be choking hazards. 
  • Wheat: There's no reason to delay the introduction of wheat to your baby. If you are concerned about a wheat allergy because of a family history, introduce oats to your baby at six months. 
  • Peanuts / Peanut Butter: When you introduce peanut butter, introduce it alone and watch closely for any reaction. 
  • Soy: Keep in mind that lots of foods include soy. It is also common for babies who are allergic to cow's milk to be allergic to soy. 

For the most part, parents don't need to worry too much about these allergies, unless there is a family history. However, it is best to begin feeding baby solids that have little allergic reaction beginning between age 4 months to 6 months. Rice cereal is a common food that you can begin with. Root vegetable and avocado are also good options. 

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