An estimated 40% of children in the UK have an allergy and we’re sure most of you have friends or family affected by this. The last week (20-25th April) has been Allergy Awareness Week so we thought it might be useful if we shared some information on allergies, especially if you’re just starting to wean your baby.
While weaning can be a really fun phase - watching your baby grimace and delight at new textures and flavours - we know it can also be a bit of a nerve-wracking time. Plus, it requires being a bit organised, and a lot of mess!
Allergy UK have a great advice especially when weaning on their website.
You obviously won’t know if your child has an allergy until they start trying a range of foods. This is why it’s recommended that you introduce foods which could trigger a reaction one at a time and in very small amounts. These foods include:
- Cow’s milk
- Food containing gluten such as bread, pasta and pastry-products
- Nuts and peanuts
Cow’s milk allergy (CMA) is one of the most common childhood food allergies, affecting around 7% of babies under one. Most children grow out of it by the time they are five but it can be a stressful thing to deal with. You might notice it when your baby starts having formula or when they start on solids. In less common instances, a baby who is exclusively breastfed may have a reaction because the cow’s milk their mum has consumed is passed on through her breast milk.
As always, it’s best to speak to your GP about your options. They may suggest switching to a special infant formula, removing all cow’s milk from your baby’s diet for a period of time and, if you’re breastfeeding, to cut it out of your diet too.
Young children who have reactions to milk or eggs often grow out of it but allergies to nuts such as peanuts can be lifelong and will need to be closely managed.
Symptoms of an allergy:
- A flushed face, hives, a red and itchy rash around the mouth, tongue and eyes which can spread across the body
- Mild swelling of the lips, eyes and face
- A running or blocked nose, sneezing and watering eyes
- Nausea and vomiting, cramps and diarrhoea
- A scratchy or itchy mouth and throat.
If you see more severe symptoms such as wheezing, sudden swelling of the tongue and throat, dizziness and loss of consciousness you need to get urgent medical help.
In very rare instances an anaphylactic shock can occur which is a medical emergency and will need urgent treatment.
If you suspect your child is allergic to something but you can’t work out what, it might be worth keeping a food diary. This can help you keep track of symptoms and to see what triggers a reaction. It will also help when you attend doctor’s appointments. A couple of the mums in our team have liquid antihistamine (suitable from 12 months) in their house just in case of any minor reactions.
We know this can sound scary but thankfully most reactions are mild. There’s a lot of support out there and loads of resources online and Allergyuk.org is a great place to start.
If your child does have an allergy it will be really useful to find a community of other parents or carers who are supporting and navigating the world while staying safe. Books like the one Emma has written (You, Me and Food Allergies) will be really useful but you can follow her Instagram or other similar feeds for tips and support.
If you are weaning or feeding young kids you might also find our personal selection of favourite easy recipes useful!