The immune system guards our body from harmful substances. However, sometimes our immune system may identify harmless substances such as some food items as potential trouble makers and launch an attack against them. This is called a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system, which causes allergies.
Babies with a strong history of allergies, asthma, eczema, and other allergic conditions in the family are likely to develop food allergies.
Parents with any type of allergy in the family should be observant about any unusual symptom that the baby is likely to develop at the time of introducing new foods in the baby’s diet. Food allergies in babies mainly develop around 4 to 6 months of age during the period of weaning.
Some babies may also show an allergic response to breast milk. This is because the proteins in the food items consumed by mother get secreted in breast milk and produce food allergies in breastfed babies. Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a common form of skin allergy present in breastfed babies. It presents with red, itchy and dry skin on the cheeks, hands, legs, etc.
Food items that commonly trigger food allergies in babies include cow’s milk, egg, soy, shellfish, wheat, and peanuts.
Food allergies are of two types: immediate allergic reaction (IgE mediated) and a delayed reaction (non-IgE mediated). Immediate allergic responses occur within a few minutes of food intake. Delayed food allergy in babies occurs 2 to 4 hours after the consumption of allergy causing food item. In some cases, both immediate and delayed responses occur at the same time.
Signs of a food allergy in babies vary from mild to severe in intensity.
Mild symptoms include the following:
Severe symptoms (anaphylaxis) include the following:
The baby presenting with severe symptoms of allergy requires emergency medical attention.
Symptoms of delayed onset allergic reaction are not life threatening and are not very severe in intensity. These include the following:
It is important to identify whether the baby has an allergy or intolerance after consuming a food item. Food allergy (or allergy in general) is an immune system mediated response, whereas food intolerance does not involve the immune system.
Signs of food intolerance in babies consist of feeling bloated with gases in the abdomen, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, etc.
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines for managing food allergies in child care.
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Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.