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Preventing food allergies in babies fact sheet

Preventing food allergies in babies

Parents can take many positive steps to help reduce the risk of their infants developing food allergies.

Top tips for allergy prevention

  • Breastfeed your baby, if possible
  • Start to introduce solid foods from four months – when your baby is ready.
  • If possible, continue to breastfeed your baby while you are introducing solid foods.
  • When introducing foods to your baby, include those which may cause an allergy (e.g., cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, wheat, fish and other seafood), within their first 12 months of life. Studies show that this may reduce the chance of your baby developing a food allergy.
  • Once introduced, continue to regularly include these foods in your baby’s diet. This evidence-based advice is based on evidence, including research in babies with severe eczema and egg allergy.
  • Unfortunately, some babies may still develop food allergies despite you following this guide. If your baby has an allergic reaction, stop giving that food to them and seek medical advice.
  • Avoid giving your baby any foods which they are allergic too, as diagnosed by your doctor.

How to conduct an oral trial

With children, it is best to trial new foods in the morning and well before a sleep.

  • Choose a day when there will be two adults available at home and your family has no other plans to go out.
  • Only introduce one new food at a time.
  • Smearing food on the skin will not help to identify possible food allergies as the facial skin of babies is very sensitive and many foods can irritate your baby’s skin and cause redness on contact – this is not a food allergy.

To complete the trial, follow these steps:

Timing Food quantity
At start of morning meal or snack Touch the food to your child’s lips and then wipe clean (don’t allow your child to lick their lips before you have wiped them clean).
After 5-10 mins if no reaction Touch the food to your child’s tongue
After another 5-10 mins if no reaction Give your child a tiny amount to swallow
After another 5-10 mins if no reaction Give your child a bigger amount – the size of a normal serve
Watch your child for one hour and look for any signs of food reaction (see below).

If there are no signs of a reaction, your child is considered to be non-allergic and the oral challenge is complete. The food should now be given regularly and another new food can be tried in a few days’ time.

Signs of food reaction

What to watch for:

  • Rashes
  • Swelling of the lips, face or eyes
  • Hives or welts
  • Tingling mouth
  • Significant itch
  • Vomiting

If any of these reactions occur, do not give any more of the food, observe your child’s symptoms and seek medical advice.

Signs of a severe reaction/anaphylaxis:

  • Difficult or noisy breathing
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Swelling/tightness in the throat
  • Difficulty talking and/or a hoarse voice
  • A wheeze or persistent cough
  • Loss of consciousness and/or collapse
  • Paleness and floppiness (young children)

If your child has an Anaphylaxis Action Plan follow that and call 000 (ambulance) and arrange to be transferred to hospital. Otherwise, please call 000 (ambulance) straight away.

After a successful challenge

Once your child has successfully tolerated an age-appropriate sized serve of the new food, it is important to keep this food in their regular diet to help promote allergen tolerance. This means the food must be given at least weekly.

Some suggestions for including new foods in your child’s meals:

  • Tree nuts: Ground nuts added to cakes and cookies, slices or savoury dishes and tree-nut paste spread on crackers, vegetables or bread.

Once you have trialled each nut separately, you can make a ground-nut blend and add this to family foods such as yoghurt, savoury dishes and baking.

  • Peanuts: Ground peanuts/peanut butter added to cakes and cookies, slices or savoury dishes; peanut butter spread on crackers, vegetables, bread or added to cakes and cookies; and meals with peanut sauce (such as satay).
  • Dairy: Milk or yoghurt as a snack; milk or grated cheese into mashed potato or mixed with minced meat; a toasted cheese sandwich; smoothies made with yoghurt or ice-cream and white sauce.
  • Fish: Fish patties with mashed potato; steam fish mashed with vegetables; homemade fish fingers; fish mornay and sushi rolls.
  • Egg: Boiled, poached or scrambled eggs, omelettes, quiches, frittatas, egg in fried rice, fresh or dried egg pasta, cakes, muffins, biscuits, pancakes and pikelets.

Contact us

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In an emergency, always contact 000 for immediate assistance.

Resource No: FS292. Developed by the Immunology and Allergy Department, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. Updated: January 2018. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

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