Introducing common food allergens around 4-6 months is now recommended. The foods that children are most commonly allergic to are milk, wheat, egg, soy, peanut, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Here’s up to date guidance on how to expose your little one to these foods, while knowing the signs of an allergic reaction. Reactions to foods may be common during infancy. Here's a little info to make figuring things out a bit easier.
When to check with the doctor first
Before you introduce a common food allergen – be sure to get all your questions answered by your doctor. It is especially important to check with your doctor if…
- Your baby has severe atopic dermatitis, an allergic skin rash, and it is poorly controlled.
- Your baby has reacted to other foods.
- A sibling has a peanut allergy.
- Your baby has a diagnosed food allergy.
- You have a history of food allergies in your family.
Introducing foods with common allergens
Avoiding the common allergens beyond 4-6 months is no longer encouraged. Now experts recommend offering common food allergens - in developmentally appropriate forms - before your baby's 1st birthday. New research suggests that introducing and regularly feeding allergenic foods such as peanut during infancy may help reduce your baby's risk of developing a peanut allergy.
Tips on how to introduce common food allergens
- Wait until your baby is accustomed to eating solid foods and several other foods, such as infant cereal and baby food purees, are well accepted.
- Try foods most likely to cause a reaction at home for the first few times you offer it, rather than at a daycare or restaurant. In some cases, particularly with peanut products, the reaction occurs the first time the baby is exposed, but it is also possible for babies to have their first reaction, the second time they are offered the food. Watch each time until tolerance is established.
- Pick a time when your baby is feeling well and you are able to devote your full attention for at least two hours so that you can watch for an allergic reaction.
- Offer your baby a small amount the first time a new food is given.
- If your baby doesn’t react, slowly increase the amount you offer them.
- Offer one new food at a time. Wait about 3 days after feeding a new food until you introduce another, to make it easier to pinpoint where the allergy is coming from if your baby reacts.
- Make sure the foods are in a developmentally appropriate form for your baby’s eating skills.
- Following the doctor’s advice about introducing new foods.
Signs of food allergy may show up minutes or hours after your baby's first bite, but your little one may not react until they have had the food a few times. Watch your baby after they eat a new food for these symptoms and stop feeding it and call your doctor if you suspect an allergy.
Signs of an allergic reaction:
- Their cry changes to become shrill or hoarse-sounding
- Persistent or excessive crying that only happens after eating certain foods
- Runny nose, congestion, cough or sneezing
- Difficulty breathing (Call your doctor right away!)
- Skin irritations such as rashes and hives
*Never feed raw or undercooked eggs to baby
**Whole Peanuts and tree nuts are a choking risk and should never be introduced to young children in their whole form. Peanut and nut butters are also a choking risk, unless mixed with water to a very thin consistency. Until you have the okay from your baby’s doctor due to the risk of aspiration; however, developmentally appropriate peanut-containing products may be introduced earlier.