In recent years we have seen the development of allergies become more and more popular in infants and children. Up to date research believes this could be due to the fear developed a decade ago of introducing common allergen foods early in life. Research now tells us introducing allergen foods as early as possible is the best approach for allergy prevention.
What is a food allergy?
When the body treats a food protein as harmful. In response, the body’s immune system attacks the foreign food particles causing an allergic reaction.
Signs and Symptoms:
-Flushed, red or itchy skin
-Swelling of eyes, face, lips, throat or tongue
-Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
-Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
Common Allergen Foods:
When Should They Be Introduced?
Recent research has supported early introduction of these foods to prevent the development of allergies in children. Introduction should begin at 6 months or earlier if the infant is showing signs of motor development to start introducing solid foods. This means allergen foods should be included in some of the first foods introduced to your child!
Read my post on the introduction of solid foods here!
We Now Know....
Delaying introduction of wheat and cereal grains beyond six months increases the risk of developing a wheat allergy (CPS, 2013).
Infants with high environmental exposure, but no oral exposure to peanuts are at greater risk of developing a peanut allergy (CPS, 2013).
It shouldn't stop at introductions, frequent consumption is just as important to prevent allergy development (CPS, 2013).
Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance?
A food intolerance does not include the immune system, therefore, signs and symptoms of an intolerance will be different than those listed for allergies.
An allergy to milk would be the body’s immune system rejecting the protein in milk. vs
An intolerance to milk would be the body not being able to break down the sugar molecule “lactose” in milk causing bloating and gas.
~A lactose intolerance often means milk can be consumed in small amounts.
~A milk allergy means no milk should be consumed due to life threatening signs and symptoms.
Is My Child at Higher Risk?
If yourself as a parent or the infants siblings have a common allergy, your infant may be at risk as well.
Proceed with cation when introducing allergen foods at six months.
What To Do If You Suspect An Allergic Reaction:
If you think there may be a small sign of an allergic reaction in your child, stop giving the food to your child and discuss with your family doctor before trying again.
If signs and symptoms are severe, immediately call 911. Avoid giving child medication that could cause them to fall asleep during the reaction.
Should I Be Scared To Introduce Allergen Foods?
Do not be fearful of introducing allergen foods! If your child has a higher risk due to hereditary reasons, as always watch and be mindful when introducing common allergen foods.
Should I Avoid Allergen Foods During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?
Avoiding allergen foods during these critical periods of development could put your infant at greater risk of developing food allergies. Consume allergen foods frequently while pregnant or breastfeeding.
How Should I Go About Introducing Allergen Foods Now That I Know The Importance?
~Introduce 1 at a time.
~Watch the reaction.
~Be mindful of signs and symptoms.
~Wait 2 days before introducing new common allergen foods, this ensures you know which allergen food causes a reaction if signs and symptoms appear.
What Investments Should I Make?
If your infant or child has an allergy, they are at increased risk of experiencing anaphylactic shock which includes: difficulty talking, breathing, a drop in blood pressure, increased heart rate and unconsciousness.
While allergens are easy to keep out of the home, they are not easy to control in community based settings such as schools or restaurants. You should invest in and carry around an epinephrine auto injector in case of an emergency.
Notify teachers, caretakers and other parents of where your child carries their Epipen incase of exposure to allergen.
Although these tools are expensive, have one use, must be re-purchased every year and need time and effort to receive, they are lifesaving in emergency cases.
Is an allergy lifelong?
20% of children can outgrow their allergies by the time they enter school!
To know if your child has outgrown an allergy, speak to your family doctor about testing, do not attempt to test an established allergy at home.
Hope the knowledge gained from this post can put you at ease while introducing common allergen foods into your infants diet!