How to Safely Introduce Allergens When Starting Solids
It’s important to be informed about common allergens, how to safely introduce foods to your baby, and what to do if you think they’re having an allergic reaction.
WHAT IS AN ALLERGIC REACTION?
An allergic reaction to food occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a harmless food, identifying it as dangerous. A reaction can vary from mild to severe and can occur with any food, however there are eight types of foods that cause the majority of reactions.
The foods that most commonly cause allergic reactions are:
- Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts)
- Cows’ milk
It is recommended to introduce common food allergens when you introduce other solid foods to your baby around six months. Even babies who have a higher risk of developing allergies, either due to their family history or another condition, should be introduced to these foods. Research shows that delaying the introduction of allergy-causing foods does not prevent allergies, but that introducing these foods before your baby turns one can greatly reduce their risk of developing a food allergy. You can offer the same food for 2-4 days to ensure your baby doesn’t have an allergy to that food before introducing something new.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can occur immediately or within 2-6 hours of ingestion, and can include:
- Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing (mild to moderate)
- Rash, hives or itching (mild to moderate).
- Sore stomach, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting (mild to moderate)
- Swelling lips, tongue, mouth, face and/or throat (severe – you must call 111 immediately)
- Shortness of breath, dizziness and/or collapse (severe – you must call 111 immediately)
If your baby is having a severe allergic reaction, call an ambulance immediately on 111. If you notice that your baby has had any mild to moderate symptoms of an allergic reaction, do not offer the food again. Book in to see your GP for an appointment and they will guide you on the next steps. If the food causing the reaction is unknown, you may be referred to a specialist for further testing and treatment.