Food Allergies and Children

Source: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers of Fresh Baby

Nuts are a common allergen among children, and they can cause one of the more severe, even life-threatening allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis.

Only about six percent of all children have clinically diagnosed food allergies. This number is rather small, but food intolerance, which presents itself much like a food allergy, adds to the public perception that this is a major issue. While the medical difference is quite different, the solution to a food allergy and intolerance is to remove the culprit food from your diet.

Food allergies can be very dangerous, and early detection is critical to managing them and the health of your child. Any family history of food allergies should be discussed with your health care provider prior to introducing solid foods to a young child. Food allergies or food intolerances can occur even if there is no previous family history of such. As you introduce your child to new foods, you should introduce each new food one at a time and watch for any changes in your child’s appearance or behavior. Some common symptoms of food allergies/intolerances include:

  • Rashes or eczema, especially on the face
  • Diaper rash
  • Hives
  • Runny nose, watery eyes, or sneezing
  • Diarrhea, gas, or vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Temperament changes
  • Puffy eyes
  • Nasal congestion

One way to prevent food allergies is not to introduce commonly known allergenic foods until later in your baby’s life, such as at one, two, or even three years old. This approach is referred to as “delayed introduction.” The foods that children react to are generally those foods that they eat often. The most-common food allergens that cause problems in children are eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, soy, and wheat, but there are many others. A more complete list includes:

  • Artificial colors and preservatives
  • Berries
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Tomatoes
  • Wheat
  • Yeast

Fortunately, most allergic reactions in babies are temporary and the culprit foods can usually be reintroduced when the child is older. Food allergies can be very serious, so it is important to follow the advice that is given to you by a health care professional.

Help for the Allergy Sufferer
While there is no cure for food allergies, eliminating foods from your diet is often easier said than done. Reading ingredient labels of foods can be a daunting and confusing task. Eight major foods—milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans—account for 90 percent of food allergies. If your child (or you) suffers from one of these common food allergies, there is some good news that makes reading ingredient labels easier. As of January 1, 2006, food manufacturers must include a listing of the “plain English” name of these culprit foods just below the ingredient listing. These new standards provide a definite improvement for the food-allergy sufferer.
Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are
sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit
them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas
newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available
at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target,
Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.