Because babies don’t come with a handbook, knowing whether your little one’s symptoms are baby allergies or some other illness can be challenging.
Take a deep breath. We’re here to help.
Welcome to your introductory course on the often confusing world of baby allergies.
In this article: 📝
- Can babies have allergies?
- How do you know if your baby has allergies?
- What are the main baby allergies?
- How to treat baby allergies
- What can I give my 6-month-old for allergies?
Can babies have allergies?
Allergies are your body’s response to what it suspects is the arrival of an invasive species.
Just like adults, babies can have allergies to what they eat, breathe, or touch.
Usually, children outgrow allergies because their bodies realize that what they thought was a dangerous trespasser is actually pretty harmless.
While they are common, baby allergies can be very stressful to deal with – particularly if it is difficult to figure out their source.
How do you know if your baby has allergies?
From a baby allergic reaction rash to more severe respiratory responses, allergy symptoms come in all shapes and sizes.
It’s important to check in with your healthcare provider if you suspect your baby has allergies so that they can guide you on how to go forward.
They may do a stool, skin, or blood test to figure out what’s up.
What are the main baby allergies?
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of allergies in babies:
Baby allergies to formula
Cow’s milk is a common allergy and is in most baby formulas.
More specifically, the allergy is to cow’s milk protein, also knows as Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA).
Signs of a milk allergy in babies include:
- Wheezing and trouble breathing
- Tightness in the throat
- Itchy, swollen, or watery eyes
- GI upset like diarrhea, blood in stool, or fussiness after eating.
But don’t worry – you’re not without options for handling baby’s nutritional needs.
Talk to your doctor about other formula options to see what’s best for your baby.
You may want to switch to a hypoallergenic formula that is hydrolyzed or amino-acid-based but don’t make this decision without consulting your child’s pediatrician.
Baby allergies to food
Almost 5% of children under the age of five have some sort of food allergy.
The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.
Sesame is also the latest allergen to be added to this list.
Your family history may come into play here.
This study found that about 70% of children with food allergies could trace their condition to their immediate family – with two or more family members with that allergy increasing the risk.
Signs that your baby may have a food allergy include:
- Hives or rashes
- Face or tongue swelling
- Stomach pain
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Any difficulty breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Losing consciousness.
There are some ways that you can help to delay or even prevent food allergies from developing.
Experts like Registered Toddler Dietitian and Nutritionist (RDN) Kacie Barnes recommend “introducing allergens early and often in baby’s diet (after 6 months), and doing so one at a time to monitor their tolerance.”
If you can, breastfeed exclusively until your baby is six months old and only start introducing solids after this period is up (of course, there are many reasons this may not be possible so do what you can).
As for avoiding common food allergens for the first year, Barnes says “we do not recommend avoiding food allergens.
In fact, we recommend introducing them early as its shown to actually be protective against the development of food allergies.”
Baby allergies to medicine
Allergic reactions to medicine present similarly to those to food – hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, and coughing.
They may also include a rapidly raised heartbeat.
If you suspect a reaction to a medication that your child has taken, it’s important that you get to your doctor.
They will need to assess whether the reaction results from an allergy or an interaction, which is the combination of using two or more medications at the same time.
Baby allergies to their environment
Environmental allergies typically only crop up when babies reach toddlerhood.
The most common allergies that might appear? Dust mites, pollen, mold, bugs, and pets.
(Yep, that last one can put you in a serious predicament when it comes to your furry friends. 💔 We feel you.)
You may notice that your little one is coughing and sneezing a lot, rubbing their nose and eyes, or is developing asthma.
If you find yourself coughing and spluttering at the first sign of spring, you may already be well-versed in the world of seasonal allergies.
The good news is, they are uncommon in little ones, mainly because they have not lived through enough seasons to see them as a threat.
If your baby is at risk of a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis), your doctor will give you an emergency plan so that you know how to respond.
Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening – and because your baby cannot tell you what’s going on with them, knowing the signs is really important.
In babies, the signs of anaphylaxis appear a bit differently than they do in adults and include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Next stop: how to help baby allergies.
How to treat baby allergies
It’s best to talk to your doctor first, both so that you can get to the exact source of the allergy and so that you can find a treatment that is appropriate for them.
If you suspect your baby is going into anaphylaxis, Massachusetts General Hospital offers a helpful response plan.
The best treatment is to REACT:
R: Recognize the symptoms
E: Give epinephrine. You may know this as the EpiPen. If your baby is at risk for anaphylaxis, your doctor should supply you with this lifesaving emergency treatment
ACT: Follow the plan given to you by your doctor. After giving the EpiPen, call 911. While you are waiting for the emergency response, keep your baby sitting or standing. Go to the hospital
What can I give my 6-month-old for allergies?
If your baby has a food allergy, the best thing to do is cut out the culprit.
If your child is two years or older, your doctor may also prescribe antihistamines in pill or liquid form.
It’s important to not give your child antihistamines if they are younger than two – and always under the supervision of your healthcare provider.
They have the potential to have serious side effects and may even be fatal.
For older children, other options exist, like decongestants and allergy shots, but these generally aren’t appropriate for babies or toddlers.
Good luck, mama. We know this isn’t easy. 💚
Remember that Peanut community?
You don’t have to do this alone.