The Basics of Baby Food Allergies
My first baby, Nicholas, loved to eat. He filled up on breast milk until he topped 20 pounds at 6 months, then started fortified cereals like a pro. He loved vegetables, and his eyes lit up when I fed him yogurt.
Then one spring afternoon, after I'd scrambled an egg yolk for us to share, my smiling, healthy 9-month-old woke from his nap with a strangled cry. He had thrown up in his crib, and his tiny body was covered with angry, splotchy hives. I couldn't change his diapers fast enough to keep up with the diarrhea. While I held him, trying to remain calm so I could figure out why my baby was sick, it hit me -- the egg. That afternoon, we began our journey into the world of food allergies. As neither my husband nor I have food allergies, we had lots to learn.
"It's estimated that food allergies up to 8 percent of children," says Scott H. Sicherer, MD, of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. While that means young food-allergy sufferers number in the millions, Dr. Sicherer stresses the importance of securing a trustworthy diagnosis before drawing any dietary conclusions.
Restricting a baby's diet without your pediatrician's guidance carries risks of its own. "The biggest danger is that you create a child who has a narrow range of food choices," says Frank Greer, MD, past chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) committee on nutrition and professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, in Madison.
Eliminating a suspected food, which could be filled with important nutrients, from your child's diet before any allergy has been diagnosed is a misguided approach that can mask or trigger other health concerns, adds Amal H. Assa'ad, MD, a professor of pediatrics and director of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's Food Allergy Clinic.