Infant Articles

Infant Food Allergies

By William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears


Once babies are ready to eat solid foods, parents often become concerned about food allergies. A food allergy is an allergic reaction to a particular food. In addition to food allergies, your baby may also experience food intolerance. Food intolerance is not an allergic reaction, but it is any other undesirable effect experienced as a result of eating a particular food. Allergies may manifest from something in the air, something that touches the skin, or from a certain kind of foodi.


Common questions asked by parents such as, what symptoms will my baby show if he/she has food allergies, what precautionary measures should be taken and how can I track down food allergies, will be addressed in the section below.


The Signs & Symptoms of Food Allergies

The following is a list of signs and symptoms often caused by food allergies or intolerance:


  • Runny nose (with clear secretions), watery eyes, seasonal sneezing and wheezing
  • Chronic coughCircles under eyes
  • Frequent colds and/or ear infections
  • Frequent skin rashes, such as eczema or hives
  • Night coughs and a stuffy nose in the morning
  • Diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating
  • Lots of intestinal gas
  • Fatigue, behavior problems, headaches


Please note that the above symptoms may be attributed to other causes and should be diagnosed by a medical professional. The following are a list of the most common food allergens and those that seldom cause allergies.


Most Common Food Allergens
  • Egg whites
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Yeast
  • Wheat
  • Berries
  • Nuts
  • Chocolates
  • Shellfish


Least Common Allergenic Foods
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Apple
  • Peaches
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Plums


Preventing Food Allergies
  • Preventing the development of food allergies in your child is possible. The following suggestions may help prohibit the development of allergies:
  • Breast-feed your infant for at least one year.
  • Delay introducing solid foods until your infant shows definite signs of readiness for them, usually around six months.
  • Begin with less allergenic foods when starting solid foods.
  • Introduce foods individually, in order to see if there is a reaction.
  • Withhold potentially allergenic foods until your child is more than one year old.


Tracking Down Food Allergies

An elimination diet is key to tracking down your child's food allergies. By eliminating certain possible allergens systematically, you will be able to see if the symptoms clear up.


The first step is eliminating the most common food allergens such as milk and dairy products, wheat, eggs and citrus fruits. In order to eliminate these foods from your baby's diet, it is necessary to read labels carefully, watching for dairy and wheat products.


After a week of elimination, you should see some improvement in your child's symptoms. If you don't, it may be necessary to eliminate more foods the next week. Once you do see an improvement, reintroduce the eliminated foods back into your child's diet slowly, one food at a time. If any allergic symptoms reappear, this food is the probable cause and should be forbidden from your child's diet.Some children may tolerate allergenic foods as long as they are not eaten too frequently. These children may be placed on a rotation diet, meaning certain foods are not eaten more than once every two to four days.Some people find it helpful to track down food allergies by keeping a detailed diary of what their child eats and their reaction to it. This can be particularly helpful as new foods are introduced into their diet.


Tracking down your child's food allergies is not an exact science. It may take several weeks or months to pinpoint exactly how much of a certain food your child can eat without a reaction.


From THE BABY BOOK by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. Copyright © 1993 by William Sears and Martha Sears. Published by Little, Brown and Company, Inc.