Allergy Awareness Week is from 20th to 26th April, and it draws attention to weaning babies. It is often both an exciting time as well as a daunting one, if you are doing it for the first time.
The guidance is to start weaning at six months and when the signs of readiness are there. However, there is evidence that it can be beneficial for some babies to have allergens introduced early in their diet.
Which babies are at higher risk of food allergies?
- Babies with eczema, especially severe eczema requiring daily steroid creams.
- Babies who already have a food allergy are more likely to have others.
Research has shown that these high risk babies may benefit from early introduction (from 4-6 months) of solid food especially egg and peanut (as puree). Avoidance or delay of allergens introduction may increase their chances of an allergy developing. Speak to your health professional if you are unsure.
All other babies can have food including all the allergens, via purees or baby-led weaning, or a combination of both.
The most common allergens (see below)
To introduce food allergens when weaning:
- Start with very small portions (i.e. a ¼ of a teaspoon of ground nuts).
- Introduce one allergen at a time.
- Ensure regular exposure (e.g. once a week once it is established that it is ok to eat).
What kind of reactions might there be?
- Runny, blocked nose
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Wheezing, coughing
- Red, itchy rash
- Worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms.
Most reactions are mild with some immediate and others delayed. Very occasionally it can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency.
Many foods can irritate the skin and cause temporary redness especially around the mouth (eg citrus fruits/strawberries/tomatoes) – this is not an allergy and does not need to be avoided.
It is useful to keep a clear food and symptom diary if you think your baby has had a reaction to certain foods. It’s important to note some delayed reactions are not as obvious. Speak to your GP before cutting out food groups in the long term as you may require support from a dietician to ensure your child is getting their nutritional requirements. Do not continue to feed your baby a food you think they are allergic to – speak to your healthcare professional before reintroducing it.
allergyuk.org – where you can download comprehensive weaning guides for introducing allergens.
Dr. Yuheng Zhou
Teddington Resident &