Currently in Australia, it’s estimated that around 10% of babies have a food allergy. Most will outgrow allergies over time, though a small percentage of children will have lifelong allergies.
Current research supports introducing even potentially allergenic foods when babies are developmentally ready and in the first year of life. This includes peanut butter, cooked eggs, soy milk, dairy and wheat products. Even babies with a high risk of allergy should be give ‘allergenic’ foods.
Experts recommend that pregnant women eat a healthy and balanced diet. There is no benefit in excluding any particular foods, including those which are thought to be highly allergenic.
Up to three serves of oily fish per week may be helpful and protective. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish may help to prevent eczema later in life.
Although probiotics during pregnancy (and breastfeeding) may help with eczema prevention, what’s not yet clear is the exact dose.
You may suspect your baby has an allergy if they have any of these reactions:
If your baby has any of these reactions, stop giving them the food and watch them closely. Always have your baby checked by a doctor if they have an allergic reaction to food (of other substances). Sometimes a referral to a paediatric allergist is needed to work out a feeding and treatment plan.
Anaphylaxis is a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction. It involves the immune system and triggers reactions in breathing and heart functions. Allergic reactions generally involve the skin.
When a person has anaphylaxis, they don’t have enough adrenaline in their body to reverse the body’s reaction. This is why the immediate treatment for anaphylaxis is to have a shot of adrenaline, generally from an EpiPen which is an auto-injector containing adrenaline.
For more information about food allergies, check here. Always check with your doctor or baby’s paediatrician if you’re unsure about allergies.
Written for Milton by Jane Barry Midwife and Child Health Nurse, July 2022.