Some babies have food allergies. The trouble with them is that you will not know about it until after the food has been eaten and the symptoms show up. Such symptoms may simply be a rash or irritability, or they can be more severe.
Symptoms that include wheezing, a swollen mouth and tongue and trouble breathing are life-threatening and professional help should be sought immediately.
Milder symptoms include hives, red patches on the skin or eczema, vomiting and/or diarrhoea or abdominal pains. When a food is eaten that baby is allergic to, the body sees it as an intruder and releases antibodies that cause a whole host of symptoms such as these. The trouble is that sometimes the symptoms do not show up for a few days or even weeks and that makes it very difficult to identify the culprit.
One good way to identify a food allergy is to only introduce one new food at a time and wait for several days before giving another one. Then if symptoms develop you can be fairly sure which food has caused them. Start off with offering a single new food rather than the combinations that can be present in tins or jars of commercial baby foods.
Once an allergy has been established, then you will have to read labels carefully when offering any commercial type of food – including candies and biscuits. Commercial food often contains traces of the offending food, especially if that happens to be nuts. Even things such as cordial, margarine and juice could contain an allergy food or derivative of it.
If one or both parents suffer from a particular food allergy it is quite likely that baby will also suffer from the same or related allergies, so care should be taken. Many food allergies are actually outgrown and by the time baby reaches five years of age, they are an unpleasant memory. But some allergies, especially those to peanuts or other tree nuts, remain for a lifetime and must be lived with.
If your baby suffers from the more severe form of allergy you will need to keep medication on hand and know how to use it. Other people who take care of your child will also have to be notified what foods to withhold, and be told what to do in case of an allergic attack.
Even if your child is visiting with a friend or relative at times other than mealtimes, he could be offered food. So be sure to tell everyone what he can and cannot have. In fact, it is a good idea to provide all his food and drink and ensure carers know why he must not be given anything else.
Common food allergens are peanuts and other tree nuts, eggs, wheat, milk, fish and shellfish. Of course, your baby or toddler can be allergic to substances other than food. Pet hair and dander, house dust and pollens may all trigger allergic reactions such as wheezing, hay fever or asthma. These allergens may cause problems if inhaled, ingested or simply touched.
Experts now suspect that early exposure to such substance actually decreases the likelihood of developing an allergy to them.