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Baby Eating Food

Common Food Allergens and How to Introduce Them to Children

Witten by Mia.

Introducing potentially allergenic food to your child can be nerve-wracking. Food allergies in babies can develop at any age, but introducing potential triggers to little ones at the right time and in the right way can help reduce the risk.

WHEN SHOULD YOU INTRODUCE YOUR LITTLE ONES TO COMMON ALLERGENS?

Exposing babies to allergens early in life is best to ensure they don't develop an allergen later in life. It’s best to introduce your baby to common food allergens between four and six months of age. This is typically when they’re ready to start solid foods. However, each kid is unique, and factors such as family history of allergies or their individual health may influence the timing.

At the same time, there are some foods that babies should avoid when under one. Our blog shares the top seven foods to avoid giving a baby under one.

If your little one has eczema or other known high risk factors for food allergies, your pediatrician may recommend introducing these foods earlier or later. Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the safest approach for your baby’s health and well-being.

Look out for the following signs and symptoms of a food allergy:

  • Rash or hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Itchy or tingling sensation in the mouth
  • Digestive distress such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Drop in blood pressure leading to fainting
  • Anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction characterized by difficulty breathing, a sudden drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness

THE 6 MOST COMMON FOOD ALLERGENS

While there are over 170 possible food allergies, many are extremely rare. Here are six of the top allergens in babies to watch out for.

PEANUTS

Peanuts are one of the most common allergens, and the most recent data indicates 2.5% of American children are affected. Start with smooth peanut butter diluted with water or breastmilk for a very thin consistency. Spread a thin layer on toast or crackers, and monitor for any adverse reactions. Gradually increase the amount over time and continue to try various nut butter if no signs of an allergy appear.

EGGS

Try giving your little one smaller piece — about a teaspoon — of mashed hard-boiled or well-done scrambled eggs, and watch for any signs such as vomiting or a rash that indicate an egg allergy. If there are no reactions, gradually increase the amount and try different preparations, such as fried eggs or incorporate them into baked goods.

MILK

Start with small amounts of yogurt or cheese, as babies tend to digest these more easily than plain milk. If your little one tolerates small amounts of dairy, gradually increase the serving size.

SOY

Begin with foods containing small amounts of soy, like small pieces of tofu. Monitor your little one for any allergy signs, such as hives or digestive issues. If they process them well, gradually introduce other soy products like soy milk or edamame.

WHEAT

Start with small amounts of wheat-based products like flour in a baby food recipe or baby-friendly toast. Look for whole-grain options to introduce extra nutrients. If your child tolerates wheat without any issues, gradually introduce other wheat-containing foods like pasta or other breads.

FISH AND SHELLFISH

Start with mild-flavored fish such as cod or sole, cooked and mashed. It’s important to avoid high-mercury fish and shellfish like swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Monitor for signs like swelling, difficulty breathing or digestive issues. 

GENERAL TIPS FOR INTRODUCING NEW FOODS

Here are some guidelines for giving your baby new foods:

  • Introduce one new allergenic food at a time, waiting several days before introducing another.
  • If your child does have a food allergy, it’s essential to ensure they’re still meeting their minimum nutritional requirements. For example, around 25% of your child’s diet should be protein, so getting these nutrients elsewhere is crucial if they can't tolerate milk or eggs.
  • If your child has a family history of food allergens, consult a pediatrician or allergist before introducing allergenic foods.
  • Keep in mind that food allergies can develop at any time, so continue to monitor your little one for signs of intolerance or allergy even after the initial introduction.

SAFELY INTRODUCE NEW FOODS

By introducing common allergic foods to your child’s diet in a controlled and gradual manner, you can reduce the risk of developing food allergies while ensuring they have a diverse and nutritious diet. Always remember to talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

Citations:
National Library of Medicine: Food Allergy Prevention: Early Versus Late Introduction of Food Allergens in Children
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: Food Allergy
Food Allergy Research and Education: Facts and Statistics 
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: Peanuts
Verywell Family: When Can Babies Eat Yogurt?
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Advice About Eating Fish 
Premio Foods: How to Get Protein on a Dairy Free Diet
Food Allergy Research and Education: Adult Onset Food Allergies: A Silent Epidemic 

*This is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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Mia

Mia Barnes is a professional writer and researcher who specializes in postpartum health and wellness, women's health, and breastfeeding. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind magazine, where she covers topics related to motherhood and healthy living. 

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