What causes food allergies in babies

Your kid has a higher risk of developing a peanut allergy if they already own a known allergy (such as eczema or a diagnosed food allergy), or there’s a history of allergy in their immediate family (such as asthma, eczema or hay fever).

There is evidence that having peanuts regularly before 12 months can reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.

What causes food allergies in babies

If your kid already has an egg allergy, another food allergy or severe eczema, talk to your doctor before you give peanuts or food containing peanuts to your kid for the first time.

If you would love to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) while breastfeeding, you can do so unless you’re allergic to them or your health professional advises you not to.

Avoid giving your kid peanuts and foods containing peanuts before the age of 6 months. Foods containing peanuts include peanut butter, peanut (groundnut) oil and some snacks. Little children are at a higher risk of choking on little objects, so avoid giving whole peanuts or nuts to children under age 5-years-old.

Read food labels carefully and avoid foods if you’re not certain whether they contain peanuts.


Introducing allergens

It’s recommended that when your baby is ready, at around 6 months (but not before 4 months), introduce a variety of solid foods, starting with iron-rich foods, while continuing breastfeeding.

What causes food allergies in babies

Hydrolysed (partially and extensively) baby formula is not recommended for the prevention of allergies.

When you start introducing solids (weaning), introduce the foods that commonly cause allergies one at a time so that you can spot any reactions. Don’t delay introducing a food just because it’s considered a common allergen. These foods include: milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish. However, don’t introduce any of these foods before 6 months.

There is evidence that infants should be given allergenic solid foods including peanut butter, cooked egg and dairy and wheat products in the first year of life. This includes infants at high risk of allergy.

Don’t be tempted to experiment by cutting out a major food, such as milk, as this could lead to your kid not getting the nutrients they need.

Talk to your doctor, who may refer you to a registered dietitian.


Food additives

Food contains additives for a variety of reasons, such as to preserve it, to assist make it safe to eat for longer and to give colour or texture.

All food additives go through rigorous assessments for safety before they can be used.

What causes food allergies in babies

Food labelling must clearly show additives in the list of ingredients, including their name or number and their function, such as ‘colouring’ or ‘preservative’.

A few people own adverse reactions to some food additives, but reactions to ordinary foods, such as milk or soy, are much more common.


How will I know if my kid has a food allergy?

An allergic reaction can consist of 1 or more of the following:

  1. swollen lips and throat
  2. itchy skin or rash
  3. runny or blocked nose
  4. a cough
  5. diarrhoea or vomiting
  6. wheezing and shortness of breath
  7. itchy throat and tongue
  8. sore, red and itchy eyes

In a few cases, foods can cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that can be life-threatening.

Get medical advice if you ponder your kid is having an allergic reaction to a specific food.

What causes food allergies in babies

Don’t be tempted to experiment by cutting out a major food, such as milk, because this could lead to your kid not getting the nutrients they need. Talk to your health visitor or GP, who may refer you to a registered dietitian.


Introducing foods that could trigger allergy

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

What causes food allergies in babies

These foods are:

  1. soya
  2. seeds (serve them crushed or ground)
  3. shellfish (don’t serve raw or lightly cooked)
  4. eggs (eggs without a red lion stamp should not be eaten raw or lightly cooked)
  5. cows’ milk
  6. foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
  7. nuts and peanuts (serve them crushed or ground)
  8. fish

See more about foods to avoid giving babies and young children.

These foods can be introduced from around 6 months as part of your baby’s diet, just love 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.

What causes food allergies in babies

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 kid has a food allergy, read food labels carefully.

Avoid foods if you are not certain whether they contain the food your kid is allergic to.


Food additives and children

Food contains additives for numerous 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 own adverse reactions to some food additives, love sulphites, but reactions to ordinary foods, such as milk or soya, are much more common.

Read more about food colours and hyperactivity.

Further information

Sheet final reviewed: 24 July 2018
Next review due: 24 July 2021

If you ponder your kid is having an allergic reaction to a food, seek medical advice urgently as symptoms can worsen rapidly.

What causes food allergies in babies

If breathing is affected, call triple zero (000) and enquire for an ambulance.


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