What are the symptoms of food allergies?
If your baby is allergic to a food, the signs will be there within minutes or even seconds. The most common symptoms are:
- Dry, itchy throat and tongue
- Itchy skin or rash
- Nausea and feeling bloated
- Diarrhoea and/or vomiting
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Swelling of the lips and throat
- Runny or blocked nose
- Sore, red and itchy eyes
Foods that cause allergies
Some foods are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than others, and are worth watching out for:
- Cows’ milk and other milk products
- Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, oats and barley)
- Soya beans
- Crustaceans (such as crab and lobster)
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxides and sulphites (preservatives used in some foods and drinks)
Foods to avoid
There are some foods you should hold off giving to your baby before a certain age, to avoid increasing the risk of allergies while their immune system is developing:
- Gluten (before 6 months)
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, barley and oats. You should avoid giving your baby any of these for the first 6 months. Look out for 'gluten-free' on food labels.
- Fish (before 6 months)
Fish can cause an allergic reaction in some babies so it's a good idea not to give your baby any fish before they are 6 months old. Once they reach 6 months fish can form part of a balanced diet.
- Peanuts and foods containing peanuts should not be given to babies from families with a history of allergy until they are at least 3 years old. Otherwise, they can be given from 6 months. Do not give whole nuts of any kind to children under 5 years of age because they pose a choking risk.
What to do if your baby has a food allergy
If you think your baby has a food allergy, make an appointment with your doctor so they can diagnose the problem and give you advice on how to manage it. With food labelling laws you should be able to find out what you can and can’t feed your baby, but there’s no doubt that dealing with food allergies and intolerances might seem daunting at first.