Many parents find the risk of baby food allergies one of the most worrying aspects of introducing new foods to their baby. But there are simple steps you can take to minimise potential problems and make your child's introduction to solid food a safe and happy one.
Allergic reactions take place when your baby's immune system mistakenly treats a harmless substance as a harmful one. Baby food allergy symptoms include diarrhea, eczema, nausea, constipation and watery or red eyes. Very rarely, a serious reaction known as allergic shock can occur. This can cause the throat and tongue to swell dangerously, which could lead to choking. In this situation, professional medical help must be sought immediately.
Baby food allergies should not be confused with food intolerance. A baby with food intolerance would have difficulty in digesting a particular type of food, which can be caused by many other things besides an allergen. In either case, diagnosis should be made by a medical professional.
In order to prevent baby food allergies such as these, or to identify foods to which your baby reacts, it is important to follow these simple guidelines –
1. Try to delay feeding your baby solid food until he is at least 6 months of age. His immune system will be better developed by this stage.
2. Only introduce one new food at a time and wait for a few days to see if a reaction occurs. It will then be easy to spot the "problem" food and eliminate it from your baby's diet.
3. Avoid foods that are known to be more likely to cause allergic reactions. Examples of such foods include eggs (particularly the whites), shellfish, gluten and citrus fruits.
4. Decide whether or not your baby is at a particularly high risk of developing allergies – for example, do you suffer from an allergy yourself? This can often lead to an increased risk of allergies for your baby, although not necessarily to the same allergen (ie the substance responsible for the reaction).
5. Discuss any concerns with a medical professional.
Whilst it is sensible to be cautious, it is still important to remember that baby food allergies only affect around 8% of children. So try to keep things in perspective, introduce new foods individually and stay alert for possible reactions – these measures will give you the confidence to safely introduce the delights of solid food to your little one.