Baby allergies and intolerances can develop at any time. An allergy is our immune system’s reaction to a substance it thinks is harmful. The severity of the reaction can vary greatly from person to person and can increase or decrease over time. A food intolerance may cause less severe reactions but can be harder to diagnose. Here are some tips on spotting the signs of allergies in babies versus the signs of intolerances in babies, as well as other things to consider.
1. Be aware of the main allergenic foods, for example: cow’s milk, nuts, legumes (including broad beans and other pulses), eggs, gluten, soya, fish, and shellfish.
2. Remember these foods can be introduced at around six months when you start introducing solid foods to your baby.
3. Try to introduce allergenic foods one at a time and in small amounts so you can spot an allergic reaction more easily.
4. Once introduced and shown to be tolerated, try and include them in your child’s usual diet, as this can minimize the risk of a future allergy.
5. Don’t delay the introduction of peanuts and hen’s eggs until after 6-12 months, as evidence has shown this may increase the risk of an egg allergy or peanut allergy developing.
6. Signs of allergies in babies can occur straight after a food is eaten, or several hours later.
7. Be aware of the common allergy signs, for example: swollen lips or tongue, wheezing or difficulty breathing, itchy skin, throat, tongue, or eyes, rash/hives, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, and a runny or blocked nose.
8. A severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, is serious so it’s worth knowing what to do next.
9. If you suspect your baby is having an allergic reaction, try to stay calm and seek medical help as soon as you realize something is wrong.
10. If your child is showing signs of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, call the emergency services immediately.
11. If your child has a food allergy, make sure you read food labels carefully and avoid any foods where the ingredients are unclear.
12. A food intolerance is not an immune system reaction. It usually means that the food cannot be easily digested.
13. Remember that signs of intolerances in babies can appear more slowly, making them harder to diagnose.
14. Look out for intolerance signs, for example: stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bloating.
15. The best thing to do if you’re concerned that your baby may have a food allergy or intolerance is to speak to your healthcare provider.
16. For more on baby allergies and intolerances as well as other illnesses to look out for, read our 10 common baby conditions and how to help.