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Food Allergies in Infants and Toddlers

by C. Finkbeiner | May 11th, 2015 | Infants/Toddlers, Special Needs

baby (400x400)This week is National Food Allergy Awareness Week. Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis affect 1 in 13 children in the United States (Food Allergy Research & Education, Inc., 2015). According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common food allergy among infants is soy, which is a common ingredient in baby formula. The foods that present the most allergic reactions in children are peanuts, tree nuts, cow’s milk, wheat, soy and eggs. Although children under one year should not yet be introduced to these solid foods, it is possible that the allergens can pass via breastmilk. Therefore, breastfeeding women should pay special attention to their diet to exclude ingredients that may cause risk. A family history of food allergies and an allergy test for mom can help narrow down problematic foods.

Infants and toddlers cannot clearly communicate when they are distressed by food allergies, so it is very important to look for physical external signs of distress in addition to a child’s cry or unusual behavior. Common reactions are a rash or hives, eczema, loose stool, vomiting, nasal congestion, excessive mucus or other discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth.

Allergic reactions to food can sometimes be as mild as an upset stomach, but they can also be the first symptoms of other underlying conditions a child may have, such as Celiac’s disease or lactose intolerance. For example, Red Dye 40 has been linked as food trigger for symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children who have already been diagnosed. By eliminating foods containing Red Dye 40 from the menu, symptoms may lessen or even resolve.

Allergies are unpredictable and first reactions are often unpreventable. However to limit the risk of reaction, it is recommended that when you begin to introduce solid foods to your infant or toddler that you do so one food type at a time. This will allow your child to properly digest the food, and it allows you observation time to see how your child reacts to each ingredient. Children can also outgrow certain food allergies as they build up a tolerance. But once a food has been determined to be an allergen, it should be avoided completely. If your child presents any allergic symptoms, consult your pediatrician and ask for a referral to an allergy-immunologist to perform tests to determine which allergies exist.

For more information on preventing food allergies, visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases website.

Anaphylaxis happens when a child’s body has an adverse autoimmune reaction to something introduced into their diet or environment. Severe oral swelling which causes a closing of the throat and trachea results in inability to swallow and breathe. The lack of oxygen causes blue colored skin and lethargic behavior. In the event of a severe allergic reaction, take your child to the nearest hospital or dial 9-1-1.

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