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Common Food Allergens and How to Introduce Them

Updated: May 30, 2023

Parents are sometimes worried about giving common food allergens to their babies. However, it’s very unlikely that your baby will react so severely to a new food that will result in an emergency trip to the hospital. To put it further into perspective, food allergies occur in around 10% of babies in Australia. The chance of a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis is much lower.

Common food allergens

The latest health guidelines in Australia recommend that all babies should be given common food allergens in the first year of life. Common food allergens include:

  • Peanut butter

  • Cooked egg

  • Dairy products

  • Wheat products

How to introduce allergenic foods?

Research shows it is best to offer common food allergens regularly, starting at around six months (not before four months) and when your baby is ready.

Smearing food on your baby’s skin will not help identify possible food allergies, but you can rub a small amount of the food inside your baby’s lip as a starting point. You can start giving small amounts if there is no reaction after a few minutes.

Introduce cooked egg (e.g. egg in muffins) and peanut butter in small amounts. You can do this by mixing a small amount of hard-boiled egg or peanut paste (e.g. ¼ of a baby spoon) into your baby's usual food (e.g. vegetable purée) and gradually increasing the amount (up to several spoons full). If the food is tolerated, continue to give this food regularly (twice weekly) as part of their diet.

It’s best to introduce one new allergen food at each meal and around two days apart, so you can easily identify foods that cause a reaction. If a food causes a reaction, stop feeding your child that food.

Do I keep feeding my baby allergenic foods?

​Once an allergen has been introduced safely, it is important to keep offering and serving it in your baby’s food at least twice a week to maintain tolerance.

Food allergy symptoms

Allergic reactions usually appear very quickly, so parents can gauge a reaction within a few hours following the meal.

Mild to moderate food allergy symptoms

  • Swelling of the face, lips and/or eyes

  • Hives or welts on the skin

  • Abdominal pain and/or vomiting.

Severe food allergy symptoms (anaphylaxis)

  • Difficult/noisy breathing

  • Swelling of the tongue

  • Swelling/tightness in the throat

  • Difficulty talking and/or a hoarse voice

  • A wheeze or persistent cough

  • Loss of consciousness and/or collapse

  • Paleness and floppiness (in young children).

Less common food allergy symptoms include colic, reflux, eczema, chronic diarrhoea and poor weight gain.

What should I do if my baby has an allergic reaction to food?

​If a mild to moderate food reaction occurs, do not give any more of the food, observe your child’s symptoms and seek advice from your baby’s doctor. If your baby has what could be a severe allergic reaction, call an ambulance.

How to prevent food allergies?

​Continuing to breastfeed when solids are introduced may help reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies.

The best way to prevent food allergies is to introduce the most common allergenic foods to all babies early in life. If not introduced in infancy, the risk of an allergic reaction increases as a child ages. This applies even to babies at higher risk of allergy due to eczema, other food allergies or an immediate family history of an allergic condition.

Just remember the risk of a severe allergic reaction when eating a new food for the first time is extremely low and most food allergies are not dangerous! Delaying the introduction might put children at higher risk of allergies, so it’s better to introduce early and not delay!

References

1. National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Eat for Health – Infant Feeding Guidelines Information for Health Workers.

2. ASCIA Guidelines – Infant feeding and allergy prevention. 2016.

The article originally appeared here.

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Common Food Allergens | Parents You've Got This


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