If you’ve been following our food allergy series, you might be starting to feel like an expert at this point! After all, you know the difference between food allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances. You know the symptoms of each, and you know when to try an elimination diet and when to seek a medical diagnosis. Finally, you know all about egg and dairy allergies, as well as nut, wheat, and soy allergies.
Feeling smart yet? You should be.
We’re wrapping up our food allergy series with today’s article. In it, we’ll lay out 5 steps you can take to recognize, diagnose, and manage your baby’s food allergies or sensitivities.
5 Steps to Recognizing and Handling Your Baby’s Food Allergies and Sensitivities
1. Introduce new foods one at a time, and watch for warning signs.
It’s best to introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and to wait a few days between foods. This way, if your baby does have a bad reaction to a particular food, it’ll be much easier for you to sort out which food is causing problems.
Warning signs to watch for include:
- Skin issues (rash, hives, itchiness)
- Breathing issues (swelling of tongue and airways, wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing)
- Stomach issues (gas, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for those hard-to-spot symptoms, too:
- Lethargy and exhaustion
- “Brain Fog” and trouble concentrating
- Frequent illness (as a result of suppressed immunity)
It can be a good idea to write down your observations, especially if you suspect that your baby may have a food allergy or sensitivity. If you keep a written record, it’ll be easier for you to share important information with a healthcare provider, and it’ll ensure that you don’t leave out or forget any pertinent facts.
2. If you suspect a food allergy or sensitivity, confirm your suspicions.
If you see a few warning signs and begin to suspect that your little one may have a food allergy or sensitivity, then take appropriate steps:
- Try an elimination diet. Remember, an elimination diet allows you to carefully test how your baby responds when you remove a certain food from her diet and then reintroduce it later. An elimination diet is a great diagnostic tool to use if your baby’s symptoms aren’t acute and life-threatening. Remember to consult your healthcare provider before trying an elimination diet at home.
- Seek medical help if necessary. If your baby’s symptoms are acute and serious, skip the elimination diet and seek medical attention right away. A healthcare provider will be able to perform a variety of tests (including skin prick and blood tests) to give you a diagnosis.
3. Notify all childcare providers.
Once you have confirmation of your baby’s food allergy or sensitivity, be sure to let your childcare providers know. This includes anyone who takes care of your baby. It’s important that the people who will be feeding and supervising your little one know exactly what he can and can’t eat.
If your baby’s food allergy is acute and serious, communicate that to childcare providers. And don’t be afraid to insist on special accommodations being made for your baby. Today, most daycare centers and schools have procedures in place to accommodate severe allergies.
4. Research your options.
Just a decade ago, there were so few food alternatives for people with food allergies and sensitivities. Today, that’s definitely not the case! There are a variety of alternatives to milk, and even a few for eggs! And there are a number of nut, wheat, and gluten alternatives, too. Research your options and adjust your grocery shopping accordingly.
5. Consider re-introducing foods after awhile (with a healthcare provider’s approval)
With the exception of peanut and tree nut allergies (those tend to be life-long), most children tend to outgrow their food allergies and sensitivities. Many outgrow them by age 5; almost all outgrow them by age 10. For this reason, doctors recommend re-introducing allergenic foods after some time has passed. There’s even some research indicating that feeding your child very small amounts of a food they’re allergic to may help them outgrow their allergy faster.
Of course, you should never re-introduce foods without the approval of your child’s healthcare provider. This is especially true if your baby’s allergy is acute and serious; even a tiny amount of the trigger food could cause a life-threatening reaction.
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