Food Allergies and Intolerances
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of food allergies and intolerances when introducing new foods to your baby with these simple steps. By Carolyn Land Williams, M.Ed., R.D., author of Cooking Light First Foods
Allergic reactions can occur anytime a person is introduced to something new. If the body perceives the new substance as a threat, the immune system produces antibodies to fight it off—even if the substance is completely harmless. Reactions tend to occur quickly after the food is eaten or when the person comes in contact with the food. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.
It can be scary and unsettling to see your child experience a reaction. Your pediatrician or allergist is always your best resource if your child has any kind of reaction to food. Below are the recommendations on how to prevent possible food allergies.
Food allergy symptoms
- Breathing problems and throat tightening
- Swelling of eyes, lips, and/or tongue
- Sneezing and wheezing
- Rashes or hives
- Persistent diarrhea or abdominal pain
How to avoid food allergies
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips to fight off allergies:
- Wait until age 4 to 6 months to introduce solid foods.
- Introduce one new food at a time; wait four days before introducing another. During this time, watch for any signs of allergic reactions. Consult your pediatrician if a reaction occurs.
- Most of the common foods that trigger allergic reactions (see list below) are safe to introduce to older infants and toddlers. However, consult your pediatrician or allergist before doing so, especially if baby has a parent or sibling with a food allergy.
Most common foods that trigger an allergic reaction
- Cow's milk and dairy products
- Fish and shellfish
- Tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
- Citrus fruits and berries
Food intolerances, or food sensitivities, are often confused with food allergies because the symptoms are similar, but milder. Food intolerances, however, are not true allergies because the body doesn’t produce antibodies. Intolerances can be triggered by foods that a person has trouble digesting such as milk, wheat, or soy or food additives and preservatives. If baby has a food sensitivity, discontinue serving that food for a few months, and then introduce it again. Parents often find that the food is tolerated well after baby’s digestive tract and immune system have been given further time to mature.
The good news about both food allergies and sensitivities is that many children outgrow them by age 5, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Food intolerance symptoms
- Eczema, skin rashes, and hives
- Runny nose or sudden congestion
- Dark circles under eyes or puffy red eyes
- Bloating, diarrhea, or excessive gas
Excerpted from Cooking Light First Foods, Oxmoor House, © 2010 by Time Home Entertainment Inc.