How do I Safely Introduce ALlergens to my Baby?
If you’re starting to introduce solid foods to your baby, you may be wondering “How do I safely introduce allergens to my baby?”. This is a common question and concern for many parents. Ultimately, introducing allergens can cause parents to feel worried or anxious. This is especially common in parents who have allergies themselves. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Let us make it easier for you with some tips and tricks to help you safely introduce allergens! Read on to learn more.
First , let’s talk about priority allergens. At this time, Health Canada considers the following to be the most common allergens:
- Cow’s milk (dairy)
- Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts)
- Shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, etc.)
- Finned fish (cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, etc.)
- Wheat (1,2)
Now that you know the most common allergens, let’s talk about when to start introducing allergens to your baby.
When do I Start Introducing Allergens to my Baby?
Current research from the Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that early introduction to allergens has been shown to prevent food allergies, especially for peanuts and eggs (3,4). As a result, it’s recommended to begin introducing allergens to your baby when you start feeding solids. It’s important to mention that allergen-containing foods should be offered according to your baby’s stage of development to minimize choking. For more information about this, head to our previous blog post: How do I Safely Feed my Baby Solid Foods?
In general, it’s suggested to introduce solids when your baby shows signs of readiness. Specifically, this can occur between 4 to 6 months of age (3,4). For infants who are considered high risk for allergies, early introduction is suggested. Additionally, it is recommended to work with a team of medical professionals for support and recommendations (3,4)
Overall, early introduction of allergies tends to result in fewer food allergies (3).
How do I Know if my Baby is at High Risk for Food Allergies?
As a parent, you may ask yourself “how do I know if my baby is at high risk for food allergies?”. Here are a few signs that your baby may be at high risk:
- If the biological parents have a known food allergy (family history)
- If your baby has severe eczema (dry, itchy patches of skin), allergic rhinitis (hay fever), or asthma
- If your baby has shown to be sensitive or allergic to any other foods (2,5).
However, just because your baby is considered high risk for food allergies doesn’t mean that they will suffer from one (2,5). Nonetheless, if your baby does have any of the above risk factors, it ‘ recommended to work with a pediatric allergist when beginning your solid food journey (2,5)
How do I Safely Introduce Allergens to my Baby?
Now that you have learned about the common allergens, when to introduce them, and how to identify if your baby is at high risk for food allergies, let’s answer the question: “how do I safely introduce allergens to my baby?”
Here are a few tips to safely introduce allergens to your baby (2,5):
- Start small: Offering a small amount of an allergen can lead to a less severe reaction if your baby suffers from an allergy.
- One at a time: Introduce one food allergen at a time. By doing this, you’ll know which food was responsible for the reaction, if one occurs.
- Introduce allergens early in the day: Most allergic reactions occur within two hours of eating and often occur within minutes.
- Regular exposure: Regular exposure to allergens is very important! Once you safely introduce allergens to your baby, keep that food in regular rotation.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction
When introducing allergens to your baby, it’s important to know the signs of an allergic reaction (5).
Mild signs and symptoms can include:
- New or worsening rash
- Hives around the mouth or nose
More severe symptoms can include:
- Swelling of lips, eyes, or face
- Widespread hives on the body
- Breathing symptoms (coughing or wheezing)
- Breathing difficulty
- Change in skin colour (pale or blue)
- Sudden tiredness or lethargy
- Behaviour changes (irritable, clinging to caregiver, inconsolable)
Consequently, if your baby shows any of these signs, it’s recommended to seek medical attention immediately.
Final Notes from The Nest
Introducing allergens to your baby can be a scary time! However, it doesn’t have to be! In general, if you follow the recommendation of early introduction to allergens as described by the Canadian Paediatric Society, you can hopefully decrease the chance of your baby developing a food allergy. As well, being able to identify if your baby is at high risk of a food allergy can help you better prepare for when you introduce allergens. Ultimately, to safely introduce allergens you should start small, give one allergen at a time, offer them early in the day, and have regular exposure each week. If when you start to introduce allergens, you notice signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, be sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
There is so much to learn about safely introducing allergens to your baby. This just scratches the surface. Sign up for our Virtual Intro to Solids Program to learn more about introducing allergens.
Article Written by Hailey Belaire
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- Government of Canada. Food allergies [Internet]. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 17]. 2 p. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-allergies-intolerances/food-allergies.html
- Solid Starts [Internet]. Brooklyn: Solid Starts; c2019-2022 [updated 2022; cited 2022 Jul 17]. Introducing allergens to baby; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://solidstarts.com/starting-solids/allergies/introducing-food-allergens-to-babies/
- Abrams EM, Hildebrand K, Blair B, Chan ES. Timing of introduction of allergenic solids for infants at high risk. Paediatr Child Health. 2019;24(1): 56.
- Food Allergy Canada [Internet]. Toronto: Food Allergy Canada; c 2022 [updated 2019; cited 2022 Jul 17]. Early introduction; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://foodallergycanada.ca/living-with-allergies/ongoing-allergy-management/parents-and-caregivers/early-introduction/
- Food Allergy Canada [Internet]. Toronto: Food Allergy Canada; c2022 [updated 2019 Oct; cited 2022 Jul 17]. Early introduction of allergens: FAQ for families; [about 6 screens]. Available from: https://foodallergycanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/EarlyIntro_Web.pdf