Food allergies can be a nightmare, especially when a baby is involved. Firstly, a baby has no way to speak to you and let you know what is going on. Secondly, a baby is so brand new that there is almost no way to know when and if he/she will develop an allergy to a specific food. There are some foods that are known allergens. This means that a higher percentage of people have reported allergies to these foods. For example, there are a lot of people who are allergic to dairy products. In fact, this may be one of the most common food allergies. There are also a lot of people who are allergic to tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and cashews. The big question seems to be on how we can avoid our baby developing a food allergy to begin with or at least how we can avoid giving him/her something he/she is allergic to. There are some preventative measures for parents who are fortunate enough to have some sort of evidence pointing to a specific food but for the most part trial and error will come into play.
How to Avoid Food Allergies
In some cases in which there is an older sibling with a severe food allergy, a doctor may suggest that a woman who is pregnant with a subsequent child avoid exposure to that particular food during the entire third trimester of pregnancy and all the way up until the baby reaches the age of two years old. Studies have shown amazing results in women who have followed this advice to a T. For example, if an older sibling is severely allergic to peanuts then avoiding peanuts during the last three months of pregnancy and not allowing the new baby to try them until after his/her second birthday could in fact eliminate the possibility that he/she would also become allergic to peanuts. This does not always work but a large percentage of people who were involved in the studies showed very promising results.
Family Medical History
Many food allergies run in families and for this reason it is always a good idea to gather as much information on both mom’s and dad’s side of the family in regards to food allergies. If an allergy to a specific food such as shellfish is noted then avoiding this food or having the child tested for an allergy to it is a very good suggestion. This does not mean that every child will develop an allergy to something mom, dad or sibling is allergic to but it is certainly a good starting place and a reason to explore the possibility.
Breastfed Is “Bestfed”
We have all heard that breastfeeding is great for babies in terms of providing them with a number of antibodies in order to protect them from a number of diseases and illnesses but most of us have not heard the benefits regarding allergies to foods. Babies who are breastfed show a much lower incident of developing food allergies. If possible it is a good idea for a mother to breast feed her baby for at least the first 6 months of his/her life and preferably for the first year. Even a mom who has to work or go to school can feed her baby breast milk by expressing milk with a breast pump and offering it in a bottle. There are very few practical excuses not to breast feed a baby these days so this is one thing to consider.
An allergist specializes in the study and prevention of allergies of all sorts. If you have some reason to believe that your baby may be prone to food allergies then one thing you can do is make an appointment to see an allergist. An allergist can perform a series of tests to check for hundreds of different allergies, whether they are food related or environmental allergens such as pollen and dust. Usually these tests are done with a series of small skin infections to the upper arm and then read after a specific amount of time has passed. There is no question that these tests are a little bit uncomfortable for the baby but at the same time it is good to know whether or not your baby is suffering from a severe allergy to something. After all prevention is the best medicine.
Try Known Allergens in Tiny Amounts
If you are not going to be breast feeding your baby then you will have to feed him/her formula. Most of the time, your doctor will recommend something to start with. However, not all babies tolerate all formulas which means you may have to try a few different formulas and this could lead you to a soy formula. Be aware that there are quite a few people who are allergic to soy products so make sure that you use a very small amount, maybe an ounce, to see how the baby does. As the baby gets older and solid foods are introduced do your homework to find out what foods are most typical in causing allergies. Give your baby a very small amount of these foods to see if an allergic reaction occurs.
What to Do If an Allergic Reaction Occurs?
It is always a good idea to have liquid benadryl on hand. If you notice hives or any other signs that point to the onset of an allergic reaction administer the correct dosage (based on your baby’s age and weigh) of benadryl and consult a doctor right away. A severe allergic reaction will only give you moments to act and remember that every second is crucial. If you believe your baby is suffering from an allergic reaction that may be hindering his/her breathing then call 911 immediately. Some allergies symptoms effect the skin and cause rashes while others will actually cause swelling of the throat and tongue. In addition, some allergies cause all of the above so use caution and act quickly.
The good news is that food allergies are manageable once you know they exist. A baby can go on to lead a healthy and happy life with some basic preventative measures and by eliminating some foods from his/her diet. Hopefully your baby will never develop an allergy to any food or medication but by education yourself of food allergies you will be able to make better decisions when it comes to feeding your baby.