Spotting A Food Allergy

Jessica Hartshorn, Sr. Lifestyles Editor of American Baby, discusses food allergies, how to spot them and what to do if your child has one.

First, know your risk. If you or your spouse has a food allergy, there's a 30% chance your child will have one. If both you and your spouse suffer from an allergy, your child has roughly a 60% chance that your child will too.

Most symptoms of an allergy are fairly obvious; hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling around the mouth are some common ones. Symptoms can occur anywhere from minutes to a few hours after ingestion. "It'll be a pretty severe reaction," says Hartshorn.

An intolerance, however, won't produce this kind of reaction. So if your child is lactose intolerant, they may be bloated and cranky after nursing. If they are allergic, though, they'll probably be wheezing and covered in itchy red bumps.

There are eight foods that commonly cause allergic reactions: eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, milk, wheat, soy, shellfish and regular fish. "You want to wait until your baby's about six months to start solids and then save those foods for after a year or two," says Hartshorn.

When you do start feeding your child solid food, be sure to keep baby Benadryl, or a similar anti-histamine, on hand at all times. "If you know that you have allergies, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about having an injector around just in case," says Hartshorn. However, if your child has a severe reaction to any food, always rush them to the ER, especially if they're having trouble breathing.

Researches don't yet know how to prevent food allergies, but they do know one way to make them less likely: breast feeding. By breast feeding your child, you pass on valuable anti-bodies that can help protect your child from food allergies. "It's not foolproof, but that's the only thing that they've found that seems to be preventative," says Hartshorn.

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By Erin Petrun