Q: Which foods are most likely to give a baby allergies? How long should we avoid them?
A: Although anyone can be allergic to anything, there are certain foods your baby should wait to try until her immune and digestive systems are better developed, usually after 12 months. These include egg whites, fish, shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts, as well as honey because of the risk of botulism. Children should also steer clear of eating whole or chopped nuts even longer because these can pose serious choking hazards.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics had once recommended waiting to give children eggs until age 2 and peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish until age 3, it recently decided there wasn't enough proof for all kids to avoid these foods for so long. Now AAP says they are safe to try at 1 year of age, provided you don't have a family history of food allergies.
If allergies do run in your family, the AAP suggests you can reduce your risk by breastfeeding, starting solid foods after 6 months, waiting to give peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood until after 3 years of age, introduce eggs after 2 years and cow's milk and soy products after 1 year.
Remember that not all allergies or sensitivities are life-threatening, so while you do need to pay attention as you introduce new foods, you don't need to be fearful about every new thing your child tries. True food allergies are not very common -- only 6 percent of kids have them. But you should know how to spot an allergic reaction, especially a severe one. Common food allergy symptoms include:
• Hives• Rash • Vomiting• Wheezing• Runny nose• Swelling of the lips and face• Itchy eyes
If you spot these and suspect allergies, call your pediatrician. They usually clear up within a few hours with a little help from an antihistamine like Benadryl.
Severe reactions can trigger the above symptoms plus these:
• Trouble breathing• Itchy mouth and throat• Pale, bluish complexion• Low pulse
For a serious reaction or if you suspect your child is going into anaphylactic shock, you should call 911 right away. The sooner the reaction is treated (with epinephrine and/or steroids), the better.
Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.