How to tell if baby has food allergies

Food allergies in babies and young children

Allergies and breastfeeding or formula feeding

Exclusive breastfeeding or first infant formula is recommended for around the first 6 months of life.

If your baby has a cows' milk allergy and is not being breastfed, talk to your GP about what type of formula to give your baby.

If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you do not need to avoid foods that can trigger allergic reactions (including peanuts), unless you're allergic to them.

Introducing foods that could trigger allergy

When you start introducing solid foods to your baby from around 6 months old, introduce the foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time and in very small amounts so that you can spot any reaction.

If your baby already has an allergy, such as a diagnosed food allergy or eczema, or if you have a family history of food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever, you may need to be particularly careful when introducing foods. Talk to your GP or health visitor first.

Foods that can trigger an allergic reaction are:

  • cows' milk
  • eggs (eggs without a red lion stamp should not be eaten raw or lightly cooked)
  • foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
  • nuts and peanuts (serve them crushed or ground)
  • seeds (serve them crushed or ground)
  • soya
  • shellfish (do not serve raw or lightly cooked)
  • fish

These foods can be introduced from around 6 months as part of your baby's diet, just like any other foods.

Once introduced and if tolerated, these foods should become part of your baby's usual diet to minimise the risk of allergy.

Evidence has shown that delaying the introduction of peanut and hen's eggs beyond 6 to 12 months may increase the risk of developing an allergy to these foods.

Lots of children outgrow their allergies to milk or eggs, but a peanut allergy is generally lifelong.

If your child has a food allergy, read food labels carefully. Avoid foods if you're not sure whether they contain the food your child is allergic to.

How to tell if your child has a food allergy

Allergic reactions usually happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.

They can cause:

  • sneezing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • red, itchy, watery eyes
  • wheezing and coughing
  • a red, itchy rash
  • worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms

Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur.

This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.

Do not be tempted to experiment by cutting out a major food, such as milk, because this could lead to your child not getting the nutrients they need.

Talk to your health visitor or GP, who may refer you to a registered dietitian.

Food additives and children

Food contains additives for many reasons, such as to preserve it, to help make it safe to eat for longer, and to give colour or texture.

All food additives go through strict safety testing before they can be used. Food labelling must clearly show additives in the list of ingredients, including their name or "E" number and their function, such as "colour" or "preservative".

A few people have adverse reactions to some food additives, like sulphites, but reactions to ordinary foods, such as milk or soya, are much more common.

Further information

Find out more about:

  • Foods to avoid giving babies and young children
  • Food intolerance explained
  • Food colours and hyperactivity

Page last reviewed: 5 November 2021
Next review due: 5 November 2024

Baby Food Allergies: Identifying and Preventing Them

Written by Gina Shaw

In this Article

  • Start Gradually to Identify Any Food Allergies
  • Babies and Allergies: The Top 8 Allergenic Foods
  • Food Allergy Symptoms to Watch for in Your Baby
  • Severe Food Allergy Symptoms: When to Call 911
  • Dealing With Mild Food Allergies in Baby
  • The Family Food-Allergy Connection
  • Protecting Baby Against Food Allergies: Easy Does It

Starting to feed a baby solid foods is an exciting milestone for parents. However, it comes with a lot of questions and concerns, especially about food allergies. What foods are most likely to cause allergies in babies? How do you avoid them?

Emerging research has shown that introducing multiple foods together is safe, and may help the immune system have a lower risk of developing food allergies, but more studies are needed. Check with your doctor for what’s best for your baby.

Start Gradually to Identify Any Food Allergies

It’s most important to introduce a baby to new foods gradually, one at a time, in case of food allergies. If not, a parent may have trouble tying an allergy to a specific new food. For example, if you give your baby three new foods over the course of a day and they develop an allergic reaction, you won’t know which of the foods provoked it.

The type of food or the order in which food is introduced is not much of a concern, as long as the foods you are offering are healthy and well-balanced for the baby. Each time you offer a new food, you should wait three to five days before adding another new item to the menu. Don’t eliminate the other foods your baby is eating during that time; you already know these are safe because the child has not had any food reactions up until now. Just don’t add anything else new.

Babies and Allergies: The Top 8 Allergenic Foods

With any new food, you’ll want to be on the lookout for any allergic reactions. There are more than 160 allergenic foods; certain foods may be more allergenic than others. The following eight foods and food groups are known to possibly cause problems with allergic reactions possibly up to 90% of the time. 

  • Cow's milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (such as walnuts or almonds)
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Wheat

New nutrition guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say it's okay to introduce these allergy-causing foods when your baby is ready to eat solids. There is no evidence that waiting until the baby is older prevents food allergy. If you believe your baby has an allergic reaction to a food, such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting, talk with your child's doctor about the best choices for the diet.

Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby's daily diet should include a variety of foods, such as breast milk, formula, or both; meats; cereal; vegetables; fruits; eggs; and fish.

Food Allergy Symptoms to Watch for in Your Baby

Food allergy symptoms usually appear very soon after the food is eaten -- within a few minutes to a couple of hours. If you’re introducing a new food to your baby, keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Hives or welts
  • Flushed skin or rash
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Severe Food Allergy Symptoms: When to Call 911

Severe allergic reactions can be fatal very quickly. If your baby is having trouble breathing/wheezing, has swelling on their face/lips, or develops severe vomiting or diarrhea after eating, immediately call 911. You can inform your pediatrician at a later time.


Dealing With Mild Food Allergies in Baby

If you see mild symptoms, such as hives or a rash, contact your pediatrician for further evaluation. The doctor might refer you to an allergist (allergy specialist doctor), who will ask more questions and do a physical exam. The allergies may order diagnostic tests such as:

  • A skin test. This test involves placing liquid extracts of food allergens on your child's forearm or back, pricking the skin, and waiting to see if reddish raised spots form within 15 minutes. A positive test to a food only shows that your child might be sensitive to that food.
  • Blood tests to check the blood for IgE antibodies to specific foods

Remember, just because a baby’s initial allergic reaction to a new food may be mild, it may get worse upon following exposures. Talk to your pediatrician about any food allergy symptoms in your baby.

Some allergies go away with time. Egg and milk allergies often go away as children get older, but peanut, tree nut, and shellfish allergies tend to persist.  That said, research shows that in the case of peanut allergies, peanut immunotherapy drops administered under the tongue are safe and effective as treatment for peanut allergy, even in children as young as 1. They were also found to help significantly desensitize the patients to peanuts.

The Family Food-Allergy Connection

If there is a family food allergies, your baby has an increased risk of also developing allergies, although it is not a certainty. If you have the allergies, the odds are 50-50 for them to have them as well. 

It’s best to introduce the 8 allergens gradually, at one-to-two week intervals over time so that you can recognize if an allergy develops.

Protecting Baby Against Food Allergies: Easy Does It

In a reversal of earlier policy, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending that potential allergens be introduced to your infant earlier rather than later. In doing so, the move may actually help prevent them from developing allergies to those foods.

Breastfeeding you baby for 4-6 months is the best way to prevent a milk allergy. Remember that breast milk or formula is higher in nutrition. When you begin to introduce whole milk, you should do so under a doctor’s supervision. Yogurt and soft cheeses are fine, because the proteins in these dairy products are broken down and less likely to cause tummy trouble.

The AAP now advises that, in the case of infants who are at high risk of allergies, peanuts should be introduced between 4-6 months. Infants at highest risk of developing peanut allergies are those with eczema or egg allergies or both. It was originally believed that introducing your baby to the foods when they are older might make any reactions more manageable.

Other potential allergens such as tree nuts and fish should be introduced over a period of time as you introduce your baby to solid foods, between 6 and 9 months

You should wait until at least age 1 (some experts say age 2) to introduce honey, which can cause a potentially serious disease called infant botulism. Ask your pediatrician for guidance.


Food allergy in children. How is it manifested and how to treat?

According to WHO, approximately 40% of the world's population has allergies in the 21st century. Mankind suffers from skin allergies, allergies to insect bites, to sunlight and cold. However, the “leader” of the rating is food allergies. And most of all, she worries children - both babies and older kids, and teenagers.

The disease only seems insignificant. She learned to "disguise" herself as other ailments, so not every parent is able to recognize her. How to get rid of allergies, we have already told. Today we will talk about food allergies. Why can one child eat everything without harm to health, while another completely harmless chocolate causes allergies?

What is a food allergy?

A child's food allergy is when the body reacts to one or more foods. During an allergy, the immune system accepts protein or other substances in food not as useful, but as very dangerous and harmful. Against the "enemy" immunity immediately builds protection by producing antibodies.

Each organism and immunity is individual, so it is very difficult to predict the child's reaction to the product. But some foods still cause a reaction more often than others.

From citrus fruits to dried apricots and plums - high allergenic and low allergenic foods

Foods that cause allergies in a child are divided into highly allergenic, moderately allergenic and low allergenic foods. However, doctors remind: it is not at all necessary that oranges will cause a reaction, but pears will not. Each situation is purely individual.

How does food allergy manifest itself in children? 3 main symptoms

Food allergy manifests itself differently in children of different ages. But parents should know the general symptoms of the disease: the child does not want anything, is naughty, sleeps poorly and anxiously at night, and suffers from lack of sleep during the day.

At the same time, the disease also has its own characteristic alarming "signals". Some appear more frequently, others less frequently. What are the 3 main signs of food allergies in children.

Skin reaction

Most food allergies in children are indicated by redness. Pink dots, bubbles and red spots appear. The rash may continue with itching - from this the child sleeps and eats poorly.

Respiratory system

Food allergy in children manifests itself in the respiratory system through a runny nose and nasal congestion, pain and sore throat, cough. With a strong reaction, edema appears. This is a reason to urgently call an ambulance.


Allergy disrupts the child's stomach and intestines. The baby is worried about colic, bloating. Older children feel sick and vomit, there is pain in the abdomen.

Food allergy in children. Looking for causes

Why do children develop food allergies? There are several reasons for the appearance of allergic reactions.

1. Immaturity of the child's digestive system

In babies, everything is just starting to work, so it is difficult for the body to cope with digesting proteins. Even small amounts of allergens can lead to a serious reaction.

2. Irrational introduction of complementary foods

Incorrect or early introduction of new foods into the baby's diet can cause allergies. Too much food can also cause an adverse reaction in the body. Therefore, everything new should be given to the baby one at a time, starting with one teaspoon.

An allergy in an infant can manifest itself due to breast milk - if the mother has eaten a new or allergenic product the day before. But here, too, everything is individual.

3. Heredity

Food allergies in children sometimes manifest themselves due to unfavorable heredity. Parents suffer from allergies, and not necessarily food. The risk of developing this disease in a child increases significantly.

4. Ecology

Poor environmental ecology can also affect a child's allergies. These are air and air pollution, climate change, lack of landscaping in cities, the emergence of unnatural food and substitute products.

5. Bad habits

The risk of allergic reactions increases the presence of bad habits. We are talking about smoking, the use of alcohol or drugs, both by the child and the mother during gestation.

Treating food allergies

How to treat food allergies in a child? There are two types of therapy - diet and medication. The treatment program for each child is individual, it will be helped by a pediatrician and narrow specialists - a nutritionist and an allergist.


Diet is very important in treating a child's food allergy. First, it is necessary, of course, to limit the child from the use of products that cause allergic reactions. Parents should not forget that the diet should be balanced. No need to give up foods rich in vitamins and nutrients.

If we are talking about a child who is breastfed, the mother needs to think over the diet.

Complementary foods, as we mentioned earlier, should be started gradually. If a child suffers from allergies, then highly allergenic foods - cow's milk, nuts, chicken eggs - doctors advise giving the baby only when he is two years old.


Doctors usually prescribe antihistamines and adsorbents to relieve food allergy symptoms in children. Creams and ointments will help get rid of redness and skin itching. Parents of the baby should strictly monitor the timely intake of medications and prevent an overdose of the drug.

Allergies can also be cured within the walls of a sanatorium. In the sanatorium "Mashuk Aqua-Therm" there is a special children's program Treatment of food allergies.

January 13, 2020 | allergy | children's programs

Food allergies in children - Oleksandrivska Family Clinic

Children's allergists of the Family Clinic Aleksandrovskaya

Food allergy in children. Recommendations of our best children's doctors!

Diagnosis and treatment of allergies, reviews of allergists, our prices. ..

Currently, more and more often, children with various manifestations of allergic diseases appear at the pediatrician's appointment. Food allergy, that is, a pathological reaction of the child's body to certain foods, is becoming one of the leading factors in the development of allergic diseases and a deterioration in the quality of life of both the child and the whole family. In the truest sense of the word, food allergy is not an independent diagnosis, but in each case of an allergic disease indicates the cause of its occurrence.

How common is food allergy? There is no single answer to this question. According to scientific studies, up to 3% of the world's population have some form of food allergy. Moreover, a direct dependence on age was noted, that is, the younger the child, the more often a perverted reaction to food occurs, so at an early age up to 20% of children have various manifestations of food allergies. In addition, the risk of allergic diseases in children directly depends on the health of the parents. If a mother or father in the family has certain diseases associated with food allergies, then the probability of developing such a disease in a child approaches 50%. If both parents have manifestations of food allergies, then the risk of pathology in a child increases to 70% or more.

How does food allergy manifest itself in a child?

1. Primarily by the development of allergic skin lesions:

  • atopic dermatitis of varying severity, from slight dryness of the skin of the cheeks to the development of eczema: common weeping skin surfaces, accompanied by intense itching and sleep disturbance. Among children with atopic dermatitis, the incidence of food allergies reaches 30% - 40%.
  • urticaria - an acute allergic reaction in the form of widespread urticaria bright elements, the skin as if burned with nettle leaves. The condition of the child is significantly disturbed, there may be an increase in body temperature, severe itching.
  • swelling of the soft tissues of the face, hands, feet with the development of Quincke's edema, a formidable complication of which can be swelling of the vocal cords, bronchospasm and a rapid increase in respiratory failure.

2. In addition to skin lesions, the pathology of the digestive tract is often among the clinical manifestations: nausea, vomiting, loose stools, abdominal pain that occurs after the use of a product that is an allergen for a child.

What foods are most often responsible for the development of allergic diseases?

1. In the first place are cow's milk proteins, they most often cause allergic diseases in infants, in the future, most babies develop tolerance, that is, immunity to these allergens, and the child recovers by school age. It is important to know that the allergic properties of cow's milk proteins do not decrease during processing (boiling, pasteurization). This problem is more significant for children who are bottle-fed. A large number of allergens enter the child's body, with still unformed enzyme systems and an immature digestive tract, penetrating into the bloodstream and causing a significant response from the baby's immune system. Yes, and a child who is breastfed is not immune from the appearance of allergic diseases in the event that cow's milk protein enters mother's milk. In addition to cow's milk, the milk of any mammal, including goat, can act as an allergen.

2. The next significant allergen is the chicken egg, mainly due to proteins, although the yolk allergen can also cause an allergic reaction. A chicken egg contains about 13 different proteins, many of them are destroyed, which means they lose their allergenic properties during intensive heat treatment, this explains the fact that if they are allergic to chicken egg proteins, many people are able to eat small amounts of this product undergone significant heat treatment.

3. Soy - causes serious allergic reactions when eating foods containing it. Therefore, changing the milk formula in a child of the first year of life to a formula based on soy does not reduce the manifestations of atopic dermatitis, but can lead to an aggravation of the situation and a deterioration in the child's condition.

4. Peanuts - is part of many products, being a "hidden" allergen. During heat treatment, the allergenic properties of the product only increase, causing the development of severe reactions.

5. Nuts - almost any kind of nuts cause the development of cross-allergic reactions.

6. Grain proteins - mainly proteins of wheat (gliadin), rye, oats and barley act as an allergen. Manifestations of allergic diseases appear in children older than 6 months, with the introduction of complementary foods. It is worth noting the fact that in most cases, by the age of 4-5, immunity to wheat gliadin develops and the child's condition improves.

7. Fish and seafood - certain fish proteins cause severe allergic manifestations when they are eaten, and they are not destroyed by heat treatment, but turn into vapor and become significant inhalant allergens, leading to serious reactions from the respiratory system. Protein allergens are similar in structure in the main fish species, so cross-allergy is very common. With age, immunity to fish proteins does not develop, so many adults continue to suffer from allergic diseases associated with its use. A very small amount of a fish or seafood allergen is enough to develop severe systemic allergic reactions, up to the development of anaphylaxis.

8. And a number of products, which include chocolate, honey, citrus fruits, coffee, cocoa, which contribute to the occurrence of allergic diseases due to the release of histamine from target cells, which triggers the inflammatory process. Such products also include a variety of canned food, fermented cheeses, sauerkraut, tomatoes.

9. In addition, it is not the product itself that can cause an allergic reaction, but substances added to it by the food industry to preserve its consumer qualities: various dyes, preservatives, nitrites, glutamates (coding E with different numbers on the product packaging).

Diagnosis of food allergy is a rather laborious process, there is no single criterion by which it is possible to speak with a high degree of certainty about the presence or absence of signs of food allergy in a particular person. When making a diagnosis, a pediatrician will rely on the data of the clinical picture, the relationship of exacerbations of the disease with a particular food product, the data of an allergological examination of a child with food allergens. The decisive stage is often the improvement in the condition of the child or his complete recovery after the appointment of a diet that provides for the complete exclusion of foods that act as an allergen in the baby.

Principles of dietary management for children with food allergies:

1. In a child of the first year of life, it is recommended to make every effort to maintain breastfeeding. With an allergy to cow's milk proteins, cow's milk, beef, and veal are excluded from the mother's diet. Given that allergic reactions are rarely caused by only one allergen, it is also recommended to exclude other products that have highly allergenic properties. Allowed: pasta, vegetables and fruits, mostly light in color, vegetable soups, turkey, rabbit, lean pork, buckwheat, corn, rice, oatmeal.

2. With mixed or artificial feeding: the child is transferred to a formula based on highly hydrolyzed protein. If within 2 weeks there is no improvement in the child's condition, then an amino acid mixture is introduced. Such nutrition is prescribed for at least 6 months, or until the child reaches the age of one year. Then, after determining the titer of specific antibodies, they try to introduce a fermented milk product containing cow's milk protein.

3. Introduction of complementary foods: complementary foods in a healthy child are introduced no later than 6 months of age, the same terms are established if the child has manifestations of food allergies. The first food can be vegetable puree or dairy-free porridge. When introducing a new product, it should be remembered that its composition should be one-component, in a small amount, no more than a teaspoon, it is necessary to introduce the product into the diet in the first half of the day in order to track changes in the child's condition. With good tolerance, the amount of the product is gradually increased and adjusted to the required age within 10-14 days.

4. In children older than one year: the composition of the diet is based on the therapeutic diet No. 5, given the fact that very often food allergies are accompanied by pathology of the digestive system. The principles of mechanical, thermal sparing of the gastrointestinal tract are used.

Learn more