If your infant is around six to seven months of age, then you’re probably excited to introduce new foods to their diet. But many parents aren’t aware that introducing certain foods when a child is older can increase their risk of developing a food allergy. If you’re researching how to reduce the risk of food allergies in your baby, the first step is slowly introducing one new food at a time and watching for signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. This guide will walk you through which food you should introduce and when, what signs and symptoms to look for that can indicate an allergic reaction, and when a reaction requires medical attention.
How to reduce the risk of food allergies in your baby begins with introducing the common foods that can cause allergic reactions in infants and toddlers. Just a few years ago pediatricians recommended holding off on certain foods until a child was at least one to two years of age. But new research has shown us that by introducing these common food allergens when an infant is around to six or seven months of age you can significantly reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergy later on in life.
During this time, it’s important that you only introduce one of these foods at a time. Wait a period of seven to ten days before introducing another new food. This will allow you to easily determine which food is causing an allergic reaction in your child, should you notice any symptoms.
What Foods Should I Introduce First?
For the first five months of their life, your baby will rely solely on breast milk or formula. Their first step toward solid food is pureed baby food, which you can make yourself or you can buy premade at any local grocery store.
Begin introducing foods such as veggies, fruits, oat. and rice cereals when your infant is four to six months of age. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, the best way you can prevent allergies is to expose your baby to a variety of foods early in life. Based on several studies, this is a huge difference in what doctors told parents just five years ago. Other studies claim that early and gradual exposure to foods can prevent allergies. This will allow women who breastfeed to eat what they want. To learn more, read my guide on breast milk.
Introducing foods early on can prevent food allergies in infants. There have been two studies that found that children who were not exposed to wheat were more likely to develop a wheat allergy later in life compared to infants who were introduced to wheat around seven months of age.
Babies who ate eggs at seven months also had a lower risk of developing an allergy compared to children who ate eggs later in life.
Researchers still don’t understand why food allergies are increasing all over the country. Currently, approximately six percent of children four years old and under have been diagnosed with a food allergy. The foods that are responsible for almost ninety percent of allergies include:
- Tree nuts
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy will occur if the immune system mistakenly identifies an allergen in a food as harmful. If a person has a food allergy they will experience an allergic reaction each time they eat that food. Approximately seven percent of infants develop food allergies, however, some children can outgrow their allergies over time.
Allergic Reaction Symptoms
Some of the possible symptoms of food allergies include the following:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Trouble breathing
As you can see, an allergic reaction can range from mild to severe symptoms. Typically, an allergic reaction will occur within a few minutes after a child has been exposed to the allergen. If a child experiences a severe allergic reaction, they will need immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a severe reaction include:
- Blue lips or face
- Swelling of the throat, tongue, neck, or mouth
- Hives that spread quickly
- Trouble breathing
- Uncontrollable constant coughing
- Hoarse voice
- Trouble swallowing
If a child experiences these symptoms parents should call 911 immediately.
If you’re unsure whether or not a food you’re giving your child is causing an allergic reaction, avoid giving them this food immediately and speak with their pediatrician.
How Do I Know if My Child is at an Increased Risk of Developing an Allergy?
Your infant may be at an increased risk of developing an allergy if:
An immediate family member has been diagnosed with an allergic condition such as hay fever, asthma, eczema, or a food allergy. They may also be at an increased risk of developing an allergy if they have eczema. Eczema is a crusted, oozing, dry, itchy rash they will not go away without the use of medicated creams and ointments. If your child has a food allergy it will not cause eczema. Instead, a child with eczema is more likely to develop a food allergy.
Reducing Your Child’s Risk of Food Allergies
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take that can help to minimize your child’s risk of developing an allergy.
If he or she has eczema, make sure you have a good skincare protocol in place to keep the eczema flareups under control. This involves controlling inflammation.
If your baby is breastfed, this can help to significantly reduce their risk of developing an allergy. Because breastfeeding is linked to other health benefits, most pediatricians recommend breastfeeding at least until a child is two years of age.
Diet During Pregnancy
You don’t have to avoid eating certain foods during pregnancy or when you’re breastfeeding. Restricting your diet during pregnancy will only make it more difficult to get the nutrients and calories you need in order to support fetal development and growth.
Introducing Food Allergens Early
As I mentioned earlier, introducing common food allergens can actually reduce your child’s risk of developing a food allergy later in life. Introduce these common food allergens starting at the age of six months. The risk of developing allergies to eggs and peanuts is much lower in infants who have had both foods around the age of six to seven months. Make sure you offer these foods one at a time. As an example, if you want to introduce eggs, wait seven to ten days before offering another common allergen, such as soy or peanuts. This type of gradual introduction will allow you to easily pinpoint which food is causing an allergic reaction.
When you introduce these foods, they should be offered several times a week to help your child maintain a tolerance.
Try offering the food the first time, blended in baby cereal. Give your baby a small taste and wait fifteen minutes before offering another bite. While you’re waiting to give them another bite, keep a close eye on how they’re tolerating the food. Keep a lookout for any signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. Once the fifteen minutes is up, if your baby appears to be tolerating the food well, you can offer another bite or two. Remember, introduce only one common food allergen per week.
How Can I Reduce My Baby’s Exposure to Bacteria and Mold?
Believe it or not, but unsterilized bottles can actually expose your child to bacteria, viruses, and mold, especially if they spend time in public places such as daycare or parks. They can also be exposed to mold if their bottles have not been properly cleaned and stored. You can use the best bottle sterilizers to kill off viruses, bacteria, and mold.
Some parents will only sterilize baby bottles when they’re brand new, but if your child was born prematurely or has a weakened immune system, or has recently gotten over a serious illness, regularly sterilizing their bottles, teething rings, small toys, and pacifiers can provide further protection. I recommend the Philips Avent 4-in-1 Electric Steam Sterilizer SCF286/05, which is easy to use and can kill up to 99.9% of germs and bacteria.
The Best Way to Prevent Allergy Triggers
If your child has seasonal allergies, avoid going outdoors when the pollen count is high, vacuum and dust the home often, wash bedding once a week, and invest in an air purifier in the main rooms of the house, especially their bedroom. If they’re allergic to an animal, try to avoid their exposure to that particular type of animal. Children may be able to take certain medications that can help to minimize the symptoms of seasonal and environmental allergies. Speak with your pediatrician for more information.
Can Allergies Be Cured?
No. However, some children will outgrow their allergies as their immune system matures. There are also certain medications that can be taken daily that will help to reduce and control symptoms. However, these medications cannot cure the allergy.
By introducing these foods starting at the age of six months you can significantly reduce their risk of developing an allergy compared to children who are not introduced to these foods until they’re over the age of one. Now that you know how to reduce the risk of food allergies in your baby, you can create meals that will include some of the common food allergens to help build your child’s tolerance of these foods to prevent any issues later in life. Get creative and look online for baby meal ideas that are egg, wheat, soy, or peanut-based.