Food allergies are becoming more common and hence this is an area of important ongoing research. The latest Australian research shows that around 1 in 10 infants develop an allergy to food*. The most common food allergies in children in Australia are cow’s milk, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts, but other food allergens include soy, seafood, fish, sesame and wheat. Some food allergies children grow out of and others are life-long allergies.
Signs of an allergic reaction might include skin rashes, breathing difficulties and swelling particularly of the mouth. These signs may not appear straight away, they can sometimes take a couple of hours to become obvious. In very rare cases serious food allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat and mouth, restricting the airways and can be life threatening. Always seek medical attention if your child has shown any signs of an allergic reaction to food.
- If your baby's brother or sister, or either parent has a diagnosed allergy then your baby has a higher risk of developing an allergy as well.
- Among other benefits, breastfeeding may lower the risk of allergy in babies. Breastfeed your baby for at least the first six months, and continue to breastfeed for as long as you can after you have introduced solids.
- Introduce solid foods to your baby when they show the developmental signs of readiness around 6 months of age, but not before 4 months.
- When your baby starts solids, consider introducing just one new food at a time. Try a new food every two to three days to see how your baby tolerates it and then you can try another singular food.
- There is no reason to delay introducing any foods to your baby unless you know they have a diagnosed allergy to a certain food.
- If you do suspect your baby has a food allergy, do make sure you talk to your health professional for correct diagnosis, advice and emergency treatment.
- If your baby has a food allergy, the only treatment is avoidance of known food allergens. Also be sure to speak to a dietitian for advice on how to change your babies’ diet and to still ensure a nutritionally adequate diet.
- When buying baby food be sure to refer to the product label (every time you buy a food) which clearly lists all ingredients, including allergens so you can identify anything which may be unsuitable for your baby.
* Osborne et al. Prevalence of challenge-proven IgE-mediated food allergy using population-based sampling and predetermined challenge criteria in infants. J Allergy Clin Immunolol 2011; 127: 668-676