Food allergies in babies can be tough to spot. That’s why it’s crucial to know what signs and symptoms to watch out for. Food allergies can be triggered by a variety of foods, such as eggs, cow’s milk, and soy. Some babies even react to proteins from breast milk. The problem is, most parents have no idea if their babies have food allergies until they eat the problem food and develop a reaction. So, what happens when your baby experiences food allergies, and you don’t know what to do? In this article, we share the signs and symptoms of food allergies in babies and what to do if your child has a food allergy.
What Are Food Allergies
Food allergy is an abnormal response of your immune system to something you ate. When this happens, your body reacts as if the food you ate is harmful. As a result, your immune system, which is responsible for fighting infections and disease, creates antibodies to fight the food allergen.
Signs of a Food Allergies in Babies and their Symptoms
Food allergies can trigger numerous symptoms, some of which are difficult to recognize, especially, if the baby is too young to say what’s going on. If a parent or biological sibling has food allergies, there’s a high probability the baby will develop them. That said, it’s good to keep that in mind when you start introducing your baby to solid foods.
Usually, the allergic reactions are mild. However, some allergies can be severe and require immediate medical advice.
Symptoms of Mild Food Allergies in Babies
When the child is too young, it can be challenging to recognize mild signs of food allergies in babies. The key is to watch for symptoms that come soon after eating. Some of the common symptoms you should be aware of include:
Colic is a descriptive term that refers to your baby crying inconsolably for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for at least three weeks. Colic happens in a predictable pattern, and you can recognize it by its symptoms:
- High-pitched crying
- Red face, sometimes with pale skin around the mouth
- Hard to soothe
- The baby may clench fists, stiffen arms, or pull legs up
Food allergy can cause colic, but so do other things, such as digestive problems or the inability to self-soothe. Some experts believe that a baby with colic may point to a cow’s milk allergy that’s causing reflux.
Eczema is a scaly, itchy rash that may turn red and raw. Eczema may look different, depending on your baby’s age:
- 0-6 months – eczema appears on cheeks, forehead, chin, and scalp. It looks red and weepy and may spread to other areas.
- 6-12 months – eczema appears on elbows and knees due to crawling.
- 2-5 years – eczema will usually appear in the creases in knees and elbows or on your baby’s wrists, hands, and ankles. It may appear dry, scaly, and thick.
Some popular remedies to prevent eczema flare-ups include breastfeeding exclusively, applying wet wraps or Vaseline, or using oatmeal baths or cold compresses.
If your baby develops pink or red pumps with pale centers all over the body, those are called hives. They can be quite itchy, causing discomfort. Hives usually subside on their own within about six hours. This means they don’t need to be treated unless they become severe. However, be sure to seek immediate medical attention if your baby:
- Develops hives just after eating eggs, nuts, fish, or shellfish
- Is under one year old and develops hives all over the body
- Develops hives soon after taking medicine
- Other mild food allergies to pay attention to include:
- Digestive issues, such as abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Swelling of the eyes, lips, and face
- Signs of dehydration, like sunken eyes, dry lips and tongue, dry, wrinkly skin, and fewer wet diapers per day (six is normal for infants)
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Scratching or pulling at their tongue
- Unusual behavior or crying
Severe Food Allergies in Babies
Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock (also known as a severe allergic reaction) is rare in babies. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. When it does, it can be life-threatening, and you should call a doctor immediately.
Symptoms for severe allergic reactions are likely to occur right after your baby has been introduced to a new food or formula. Some of the symptoms to watch out for include:
- Choking, which may indicate respiratory distress.
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing. The baby may gasp for air or purse their lips to breathe.
- Pale, flushed skin, which may signal a drop in blood pressure. Note that this may be hard to recognize if your baby has hives.
- Swelling of the face, mouth, or throat, which may impair breathing or swallowing.
- Loss of consciousness, which may indicate low blood pressure. Call emergency services immediately.
According to research, babies with allergic reactions caused by food tend to develop stomach issues 89 percent of the time. Vomiting is also common, with 83 percent of children experiencing this reaction. A whopping 94 percent developed hives.
Common Foods Likely to Cause an Allergic Reaction in Babies
Every child has a unique body, and any food can trigger an allergic reaction. However, according to studies, 90 percent of them are caused by:
- Tree nuts
A high percentage of babies with allergic reactions to milk, wheat, soy, and eggs will outgrow these allergies by age five. Others may last longer or become permanent.
How to Prevent Food Allergies in Babies
Experts recommend breastfeeding your baby for between four to six months. Breastmilk is the least likely food to trigger an allergic reaction unless you eat protein that your baby’s body can’t tolerate. Whatever you eat is passed on through your milk.
When introducing solid foods, start gradually with single ingredients like rice cereal or apple/squash baby food. Basically, look for foods that are least likely to cause any allergic reaction.