Watching for allergies when starting solids

  • Symptoms of food allergy and when they may happen.
  • How and when to introduce foods most likely to cause a reaction.
  • Know when to talk to your baby’s doctor first about introducing foods.

Food allergies are seemingly everywhere and chances are your daycare or local elementary school is a peanut-free facility. The reality is only around 5% of children in the US are truly allergic to certain foods. 

Allergy symptoms

Signs of food allergy may occur a few minutes or hours after his first bite, but he may not react until he has had the food a few times. Watch for the following signs after he eats a new food and call your doctor if you suspect he has a food allergy.

  • His cry changes to become shrill or hoarse-sounding
  • Colic that only happens after eating certain foods
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose, congestion, cough or sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing (Call your doctor right away!)
  • Skin irritations such as rashes and hives

Introducing allergenic foods

Offer your baby a wide variety of foods – including those that most often cause an allergy in babies. Avoiding these foods beyond 4 to 6 months is no longer encouraged. Experts recommend offering foods most likely to cause a reaction before your baby’s first birthday, since doing so may help reduce his allergy risk. 

Foods most likely to trigger an allergic reaction in infants and children:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts*
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
  • Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
  • Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Tips on how to introduce these foods:

  • Wait until several other foods have been added to his diet.
  • Try foods most likely to cause a reaction at home, rather than at a daycare or restaurant. In some cases, particularly with peanut products, the reaction occurs the first time the baby is exposed.
  • Offer your baby a small amount the first time a new food is given.
  • If he doesn’t react, slowly increase the amount you offer him.
  • Wait 3 to 5 days after feeding one food until you introduce another.

When to check with the doctor first:

  • Your baby has severe atopic dermatitis, an allergic skin rash, and it is poorly controlled.
  • He has recently reacted to other foods.
  • A sibling has a peanut allergy.
  • Your baby has a diagnosed food allergy.

Following the doctor’s advice about introducing new foods may help your baby have a safer, happier start in life and give you some peace of mind, as well. 

*Peanuts should never be introduced until you have the okay from your baby’s doctor due to the risk of aspiration; however, peanut-containing products and peanut butter may be introduced earlier.
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