Feeding Friday – What To Know About Food Allergies BEFORE You Start Offering Baby Food

Cindy Hooks Morrison, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

Bear Cub #1 Food Allergy Eczema

Bear Cub #1 Food Allergy Eczema

It’s so fun to feed our babies.  Meal times are such a social time.  They are the times of day when we all usually stop to come together to nourish our bodies, enjoy delicious foods and talk.  We share about our days, share family stories or news and reflect on current events and how they pertain to our family and its values.  Meal times bring us all together, so it is not a surprise that we get extremely excited when the newest members of our families are ready to join the table.

In my first Feed Friday post, I spoke about the importance of not rushing this step of your child’s development since there are protective reflexes that they have in place that need to fade naturally prior to starting pureed foods. The second reason I discussed was that we need to think beyond the fun for a few minutes and have our family prepared just in case something goes wrong.

Prior to picking up a spoon it is REALLY important to know infant and toddler basic life support (CPR).  CPR is life saving for children if they are choking or having a severe food allergy reaction.

We come from a family that DOES NOT have any food allergies.  When our son had his first reaction to peanut butter (from a kiss at 5 months old) we were shocked.  It wasn’t even on our radar, in fact, before his diagnosis…we pretty much loved peanut butter.

Food allergies are on the rise and affecting many families, like us, that do not have food allergies in their family history.  There are MANY theories as to why this is happening, including ties to pesticides used on food crops (peanuts are a highly sprayed crop), genetically modified foods, vaccinations, cleanliness (yes, being too clean!), introducing foods too early or too late and even breast feeding.  But ALL of these studies have contradicting findings…which means none of these areas are the true answer. They are just theories.  For some families, food allergies are genetic — but for ours, it was not.  And unfortunately, we are part of the rising trend.

John Hopkins Children’s Center shares this information, “The dramatic rise in all types of allergy in the past 20 to 30 years, including food allergies, is striking. There is evidence that peanut allergy has doubled just in the last five years. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that all food allergies are on the rise and three million children in the United States – including nearly 8 percent of young children – now have at least one food allergy.”  You can check out this link to read more of their information pertaining to current research studies and education about food allergies.

So now that you know about the rise in food allergies happening in the United States, here is an additional step you should take PRIOR to introducing baby food.

You should partner with your pediatrician to come up with the best plan for your family, remembering that EACH of your children may be different and have different reactions to different foods.  Many pediatricians are allowing families to offer peanut butter for the first time during well visits, so there is a doctor present should a severe reaction take place.  Others are allowing for allergy testing after age one, prior to offering foods that may be in your family’s food allergy history.  So have a plan in place.  This is more important to do now, than it ever has been before.

When you begin to introduce solids (purees) make sure that you are watching most carefully when you begin introduce the eight most common allergens into your child’s diet.

1. Milk 
2. Eggs 
3. Peanuts 
4. Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts) 
5. Fish (bass, cod, flounder) 
6. Shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp) 
7. Soy 
8. Wheat

Food allergy symptoms usually appear soon after a food is eaten.  You should watch for a reaction to occur within a few minutes to a couple of hours. When introducing new foods to your baby know the following symptoms of food allergies and if you notice ANY of these occurring.  Discontinue offering that food and contact your pediatrician.

  • Hives
  • Flushed skin or rash (see Eczema photo above)
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

When You Should Just Call 911

If your child is having trouble breathing, has swelling on their face or develops severe vomiting or diarrhea after eating, don’t take time to call your pediatrician. Call 911 immediately. Severe allergic reactions can be fatal very quickly.

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Although these are the less fun things to discuss when we start to get excited about feeding our babies, they are truly the most important steps to take for your children.

Now that i’ve discussed CPR & FOOD ALLERGIES…next Friday promises to be more fun.

Remember, it’s only scary when you don’t have a plan.  Have a plan and partner with your pediatrician.

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