Q & A on Children's Allergies

Food Allergies

How do I know if my child is allergic to his formula?

Allergy symptoms can appear from the first few weeks to the first two months, depending on how sensitive your child is to the milk protein casein -- usually the cause of an allergy to cow's-milk formula. Typically children will suffer from stomach cramps that make them cry, get cranky, and spit up after feedings. Loose stools and diarrhea, as well as blood in the stool, are also common symptoms. Some children may also break out in a rash, hives, vomit, eczema (dry, flaky patches of skin especially around the forehead) or even have difficulty breathing in severe cases, called anaphylaxis. In other instances the only sign of a cow's-milk formula allergy is that your child becomes continuously irritable or cries after eating -- and when you offer another bottle to soothe him, that only makes things worse. If your doctor suspects a milk allergy, he will probably suggest you switch to a soy protein-based formula or a hydrolyzed cow's-milk formula, in which the milk proteins are broken down enough so that your baby can tolerate them.

I'm pregnant, and I've always been allergic to peanut butter and seafood. Does that mean my baby will be allergic to those foods, too?

Since allergies are often inherited, it is a good idea to learn more about how common they are in your family, as well as in the family of your child's father. If there is a history of food allergies, the chances are greater that your baby will develop them, too. In fact, if both the father and mother have allergies, there's about a 60 percent chance that their baby will have allergies. If only one parent has them, the odds are 30 percent. It is also more likely that your child will develop allergies to peanut butter and seafood if you have them, but that's not absolute.

My 1-year-old is allergic to milk. Can I give him foods that contain milk, such as pancakes or biscuits?

It depends how severe your child's milk allergy is. As mentioned before, a child who is allergic to milk is usually allergic to the milk protein casein. Since the heat from cooking may alter or destroy the milk proteins, your child may be able to tolerate the milk in pancakes or biscuits. However, if he has severe allergies, cooking the milk may not be enough. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (foodallergy.org) provides more information on what's safe for allergic kids to eat.

I have food allergies. While I'm expecting is there anything I can do to prevent my baby from getting them?

Generally, if you're concerned about your baby's developing food allergies because there is a family history of them, you should be careful about what you eat during the third trimester. Although it may be difficult, it's wise to cut down on the amount of potential allergens you eat, including milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, etc.), peanuts, fish, and shellfish. These foods account for up to 90 percent of all allergies in children younger than 2. Breastfeeding for the first year is also a good idea. It's been shown to reduce the incidence of allergies in babies. Despite any concerns about your diet influencing a future food allergy for Baby, it's unnecessary to eliminate allergenic foods from your diet unless determined necessary by your doctor. Also, children who are at high risk of developing allergies, specifically those whose parents or siblings have allergic diseases, might benefit from being introduced to solids, especially allergenic foods, later. (For example, although egg yolks are OK to try, egg whites should be reserved for when your baby is a little bit older and exposed to more solids.)

Do I have to worry about my child's food allergies? Won't she outgrow them?

In most instances food allergies do disappear as a child gets older, often by age 5 according to the AAP.

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