Baby and Child Food Allergies – What You Need to Know About Them

In the United States, baby and child food allergies affect approximately 8% of youngsters. As parents introduce solids to their little ones, it’s essential to understand the causes, recognize the signs, and learn whether it’s possible to prevent food allergies, ensuring a safe and healthy transition to solid foods.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 8% of children in America may have food allergies (CDC). That equates to around one in every 13 children. For many kids, consuming particular foods sets off an immune system overreaction, resulting in everything from itchiness and dermatitis to breathing problems and potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

The issue is also getting worse; between 1997 and 2011, there was a 50% increase in the prevalence of food allergies. Scientists need to understand why fully, but ideas include more parental and physician awareness, lowered immunity because children encounter fewer microorganisms and a lack of early exposure to common allergens.

So what symptoms indicate a food allergy? Can you stop them before they start to appear? All the information you require regarding food allergies in infants, toddlers, and kids is provided here by experts.

Why Do People Get Food Allergies?

Doctors are unsure of the exact reasons why some kids get food allergies, and others don’t. However, according to Amal H. Assa’ad, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and the head of the food allergy clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, “eczema is one of the earliest signs of an allergic person.” According to research by Parents advisor Hugh Sampson, M.D., head of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, up to 40% of infants with moderate to severe eczema also have food allergies.

The risks are also increased by a history of allergies, asthma, or eczema in the family. “You could inherit an allergy susceptibility. According to Dr. Assa’ad, it is not something the woman does while she is pregnant, breastfeeding, or doing anything else. Simply put, some kids are more likely to inherit the genes that put them at risk for developing food allergies.

Also, keep in mind that despite possible similarities in symptoms, food allergies, and intolerances are two separate conditions. This is so that the immune system is unaffected by food intolerances. People with food intolerances cannot digest certain foods because their bodies lack the precise enzyme needed to break down that food. As an illustration, if you lack the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar present in milk and other dairy products, you are lactose intolerant. Food intolerances can be extremely uncomfortable, but unlike food allergies, they rarely pose a life-threatening threat.

Typical Food Allergies

According to Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, cow’s milk allergies are the most frequent food allergies in infants since they don’t typically consume a wide variety of foods. Up to 7% of newborns have issues with milk digestion. Many parents confuse this with lactose intolerance, which is the inability of older children and adults to digest the milk protein lactose. However, this illness is uncommon in young children; it occasionally manifests after a stomach virus but rapidly goes away.

A wide variety of foods can cause allergies in your infant, toddler, or child. But there are nine common offenders in the United States.

Common Allergens In Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that these nine items are to blame for more than 90% of food allergies in the country.

  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Sesame

The U.S. FDA has legal requirements for each of the nine foods on this list (FDA). Manufacturers must label these allergies on items, and food facilities must take precautions to prevent cross-contamination.

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS), when the body mistakes proteins from food with those from certain pollen, can also occur in some youngsters. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology claims that allergy symptoms are brought on by exposure to the proteins because the immune system perceives them as being closely related (AAAAI). It’s known as cross-reactivity. For instance, according to the AAAAI, if you are allergic to ragweed, you can also be sensitive to bananas or melons because they contain comparable proteins.

Food Allergy Symptoms in Infants and Children

When an individual has a food allergy, their immune system treats the food as though it were a threat, and launches an attack by releasing histamines and antibodies. According to doctor Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, M.D., “All that signifies is that the digestive system isn’t able to adequately handle it.”

After ingesting, touching, or inhaling an allergic food, symptoms frequently start to show up minutes to hours later. Food allergies in infants and children may show the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort in the mouth.
  • Swelling of the face, throat, lips, tongue, or other body parts.
  • trouble breathing
  • Hives
  • Itchy, red skin
  • Congestion
  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • stomach pains.
  • Diarrhea
  • a feeling of faintness or dizziness.
  • The blood in the diaper is red.
  • Anaphylaxis

The most severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, is a potentially lethal condition resulting in shock. Dr. O’Keeffe advises not to drive to the hospital if your child develops breathing difficulties, a swollen tongue, or gets hot and wheezy; instead, call an ambulance right away. According to the AAAAI, other symptoms of anaphylaxis include constriction in the throat and chest and “tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp.”

The severity of the reaction could get worse with each exposure to the trigger. It also doesn’t matter if, for instance, your 2-month-old has never had peanuts. If you ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, they could have been exposed to it through your skin or breast milk.

By the time they start elementary school, the majority of kids have outgrown their sensitivities to milk and eggs as their immune systems develop. Food allergies can manifest at any age, even years after a food has been taken, but fish and peanut allergies are typically the most serious because they frequently appear during infancy and persist throughout life.

Diagnosing Food Allergies

Although millions of children suffer from food allergies, Dr. Sicherer emphasizes the need for a reliable diagnosis before making any dietary decisions. Without your pediatrician’s advice, limiting a child’s diet has risks of its own. The biggest concern is that you create a child who has a small variety of dietary options.

Consult your child’s pediatrician and go to an allergist if your youngster has stomach issues or is irritable after eating. Sometimes the case has nothing to do with food allergies: Dr. O’Keeffe explains, “I take numerous issues into consideration. For instance, “mismixing the powder wrongly (not finding the proper balance of water to formula) is a common cause when newborns don’t take well to formula” Infants may also respond if their nursing parent overfeeds them or consumes food that makes them gassy.

Your pediatrician may suggest that you remove certain foods one at a time from your child’s diet—or from your own, if you’re breastfeeding—if they suspect allergies in order to diagnose the issue. Additionally, some medical professionals advise a skin prick test, in which an allergist pricks your child’s skin with several food-protein extracts to determine which ones result in a red, itchy bump. (However, keep in mind that infants under six months are rarely subjected to skin testing.) To identify food allergies, the allergist may also ask for a blood sample to be submitted to a lab for analysis.

You must avoid your child’s allergy-trigger foods if they have been identified as such. Doctors will typically switch formula-fed babies to a hypoallergenic formula if the issue is milk-related. Remember that even though food allergies might be upsetting and frightening, they don’t always last, advises Dr. Sampson. For instance, according to the AAP, by the age of 5, 80–90% of “egg, milk, wheat, and soy allergies” are gone.

Can A Pregnant Or Nursing Woman Prevent Food Allergies?

Historically, it was believed that avoiding highly allergic foods when pregnant or nursing, as well as denying them to a kid in their early years, could lower the likelihood of developing food allergies. Recent data, however, have proven that advice to be wrong. Currently, it appears there may be no justification for rejecting allergic foods.

Unless you are allergic to them, it is safe to eat highly allergenic foods while pregnant. There is no evidence that avoiding them reduces a baby’s risk of developing allergies. 2 In fact, eliminating them from your diet may be detrimental to both you and your unborn child because the majority of allergenic foods contain essential nutrients. For example, folate in peanuts helps prevent neural-tube disorders like spina bifida, while omega-3 fatty acids in fish and shellfish boost embryonic brain development.

Additionally, it has not been demonstrated that avoiding allergic foods during breastfeeding will benefit your infant. However, scientists do think that breastfeeding in and of itself may prevent food allergies. 3 The optimum method is exclusive breastfeeding for four months or more, advises Dr. Greer. Avoid eating anything if your breastfed infant responds to it.

There is no proof that the reverse strategy, deliberately eating allergenic foods when pregnant or nursing, offers any protection against allergies either, according to Dr. Greer.

Good Feeding Techniques for Starting Solids

Offering your infant allergenic foods is acceptable starting at four to six months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics; just be sure to keep an eye out for any adverse reaction (hives, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes or mouth, pale skin, fainting, vomiting, and swelling of the eyes, tongue, or lips).

Indeed, according to Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D., co-founder and chief allergist of Ready, Set, Food, “Numerous studies show that early exposure to highly allergenic foods can reduce the prevalence of food allergies.” “At this age, you can shape your immune system to avoid allergies.”

According to the AAAAI, you should start introducing new single-ingredient infant foods to your baby between the ages of four and six months, three to five days apart, depending on how ready they are for it. Think of fruits, vegetables, and cereal grains. Parents can progressively introduce allergic foods like eggs, dairy, seafood, and nuts once newborns have successfully tolerated some of these less allergenic ones. For several weeks, note everything your infant consumes and any symptoms (eczema, fussiness, gas). If you discover a troubling pattern, see your doctor.

Follow your doctor’s recommendations on the scheduling of solid foods if your baby has been diagnosed with asthma, eczema, or a food allergy advises Dr. Greer.

Do you worry about giving your child foods with allergens? You shouldn’t worry, Dr. Marks-Cogan emphasizes. We are aware that it is safe to provide allergic foods to infants, she claims. Children experience lesser allergic reactions than adults do. Because of this, introducing allergic foods to babies under a year old is the most secure period.

Meaningful Related articles you might like: 7 Facts Parents Need to Know About Non-Dairy Milks, How to Monitor Your Child’s Meals, Diapers, and Sleep, Can An Allergy Induce A Fever?