Did you know that you can be allergic to any food, but some allergies are more common than others? In fact, every country has devised its own list of common food allergens. Health Canada lists the following as “common food allergens”, which are the foods associated with 90% of allergic reactions in Canada. The American list is very similar:
- Wheat (e.g. infant cereals)
- Milk products (e.g. yogurt, cheese)
- Tree Nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews)
- Fish and seafood
- Sesame seeds (e.g. tahini paste)
- Soy (e.g. tofu)
- Sulphites (e.g. found in preserved foods like canned fruit)
It wasn’t that long ago that doctors would advise parents to wait to introduce these allergenic foods. Delaying introduction until children were at least 1-3 years old was common and thought to be
So when do you introduce these foods to your baby?
New research indicates that the introduction of common food allergens should start when solids are introduced, around 6 months of age. And it’s now understood that delaying the introduction of these doesn’t reduce a child’s risk for food allergies. It is usually best to wait until your baby has been introduced to a few solid foods and has tolerated them well before offering an allergenic food.
When families have a strong history of food allergies, it may be advised to start even sooner, at around 4 months. Of course, this is always a discussion to have with your health care provider.
And so how do you introduce them?
Follow these guidelines when your baby is ready and you have been given the green light by your healthcare provider:
1. Introduce allergenic foods at home, not away from home at daycare or at a restaurant, for instance.
2. Always ensure you introduce these common food allergens in an age-appropriate manner when it comes to texture and consistency (to avoid the risk of choking). For example when it comes to nut and peanut exposure: Avoid giving whole peanuts or nuts. If offering peanut and nut butter, the texture should be smooth and thin. Thick butter can be hard for a baby to eat. If it’s too thick to swallow, it can also be a choking hazard. Try mixing the butter with warm water to thin it out so it’s more like a watered-down paste.
3. Introduce food allergens ONE AT A TIME. This makes it easier to tell which food is the problem if your baby has an allergic reaction.
4. Ideally, the introduction to the new food should be done in the morning or early afternoon. That way, you can observe your baby for any signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction throughout the day.
5. Once introduced, if well tolerated, these allergens should be ingested regularly in order to maintain tolerance. Keep them on your babe’s menu, but no need to offer it to them daily.
A little bit about allergies:
Allergy symptoms will usually develop within minutes of eating food but can occur up to 2 hours after ingestion. Allergy signs and symptoms can be mild such as a new rash or a few hives around the mouth. More severe symptoms can include swelling of the lips, eyes, or face, vomiting, widespread hives on the body, breathing symptoms such as repetitive cough, wheeze, or any difficulty breathing, a change in skin color (pale, blue), or sudden tiredness/lethargy/seeming limp. If you are concerned that food is causing your baby an allergic reaction, stop giving that food and talk to your baby’s doctor. Signs of severe food allergy require attention right away. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately if you see signs of a severe allergic reaction.
Introducing allergenic foods to babies can be a bit intimidating. But understanding the current recommendations and consulting with your health care provider can make it easier. If you have any questions, or if your child has a confirmed food allergy and you are looking for some additional support in navigating the food allergy world, reach out to your local Mama Coach!