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Food allergies are scary, and they’re even scarier when it comes to your newborn. As parents, we want to protect our babies, so naturally, we have a million questions. What signs should we look for? What do we do if baby gets hives? At what age could she develop an allergy? It’s overwhelming to think about. These tips will prep you to help your infant.
WHEN AND WHY DO FOOD ALLERGIES START?
She can develop an allergy at any age, including as a newborn. Allergies occur when the immune system identifies a foreign substance as harmful, even if it isn’t, which can cause irritation, swelling or anaphylaxis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
WHAT ARE COMMON ALLERGENS?
Dairy, eggs, nuts, peanuts, soy and wheat. Aside from food and environmental allergens (like dust, mold and pets), symptoms may also be triggered by insect stings (bees and wasps), meds (especially penicillin) and latex, says the Mayo Clinic.
HOW DO KIDS DEVELOP ALLERGIES?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if there’s a family history of food allergies, your baby could develop those allergies, too. In an effort to curb allergies, parents often ask if breastfeeding can help. In short, it can’t hurt. The AAP suggests mothers breastfeed for at least six months and decrease the amount of eggs and milk in their personal diets to help prevent or delay food allergy symptoms in babies.
The AAP also suggests discussing low-allergy formulas sans-dairy milk or soy protein with your pediatrician, since they’re known allergy triggers. Babies can develop allergies to foods their mothers are eating while breastfeeding, says the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and if you cut food allergens out of your diet, the proteins should disappear from your breast milk in one to two weeks.
Current medical research doesn’t prove that withholding certain solid foods, like peanut butter, eggs or fish, will prevent allergies, says March of Dimes, a nonprofit that works to improve the health of mothers and babies. You don’t need to eliminate food allergens from your own diet if your baby hasn’t shown symptoms, according to CHOP.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BABY’S HAVING AN ALLERGIC REACTION?
When your baby tries a new food, these are the symptoms to look for, according to CHOP: diarrhea, bloody stool, vomiting, colic, eczema or constipation. Serious reactions can result in anaphylaxis, which can cause loss of consciousness, a drop in blood pressure, shortness of breath, skin rash, rapid or weak pulse and vomiting. Contact your doctor if your baby exhibits symptoms, and call 911 if you see signs of anaphylaxis. Once your child’s diagnosed, you may be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector (aka epi-pen), which you should keep on you at all times.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO OUTGROW ALLERGIES?
In some cases, kids can outgrow allergies to wheat, eggs, soy and cow’s milk, but they don’t usually outgrow allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish or shellfish, according to March of Dimes.
If you’re worried your child has developed other allergies or want to see if she’s outgrown them, visit an allergist and ask about allergy testing.