Baby allergy glossary
Here’s your handy guide to understanding allergies. If you have any concerns, speak to a healthcare professional, or alternatively contact the SMA Careline® team for more advice
Allergy symptoms – Sneezing, red itchy rash, runny or blocked nose, red, itchy watery eyes can all be triggered by allergies. In severe cases, breathing difficulties, such as wheezing, can be a symptom too.
Anaphylaxis – A rare, potentially life-threatening reaction involving the tightening of the airways making it difficult to breathe. Other symptoms to look out for include dizziness, swelling and itchy skin. The most common causes of anaphylactic reactions are from eating peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish - as well as from insect stings. Call 999 immediately if this happens. The reaction is usually immediate or within one hour of consumption.
Coeliac disease – A lifelong autoimmune disease that can damage the lining of the gut, affecting food absorption, leading to anaemia, lethargy and nutritional deficiencies. Symptoms include diarrhoea and bloating. If your baby is diagnosed with coeliac disease, a gluten-free diet will stop these symptoms – a dietitian can advise you on this.
Diagnosis – A number of tests are used to diagnose allergies, including a skin prick test, a patch test and blood tests.
Family history of allergy - If you, your partner or your baby’s siblings have any food allergies, hayfever, rhinitis or asthma, then your baby is at an increased risk of developing an allergy.
Histamine – This compound is released by the body when it detects an allergen causing reactions like itching or rashes. Antihistamine creams and syrups can ease these symptoms.
Immune system – The immune system protects us from potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, but sometimes it can mistake things like food proteins for something dangerous. It then sends antibodies into the blood stream triggering the release of histamine and resulting in an allergic reaction.
Lactose intolerance – Whilst not an allergy, it is a common digestive problem, especially in an immature gut, where the body is unable to digest lactose - the sugar found naturally in milk. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional if you’re concerned about your baby’s digestion.
Milk – If your child is allergic to cows’ milk, they may also be allergic to goats' milk and cows' milk based infant formula. Many children will grow out of their milk allergy but if not, there are alternatives. Speak to your healthcare professional about how to cut dairy products from their diet and ensure they get enough calcium elsewhere.
Nuts – Peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergies in adults and children. Nut traces can pop up often, so if your child has a serious nut allergy, always check labels, even on things like toiletries. Take special care in restaurants and other places where nuts may have been present.
Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) – Itching, tingling or swelling of the lips, mouth or throat can occur if your child has a pollen allergy and eats certain raw fruits such as apples or nectarines.
Partially hydrolysed formula – Breast milk provides babies with the best protection from allergies. For those with a family history of allergy and unable to exclusively breastfeed, specially hydrolysed formulas are clinically proven to reduce the risk of developing allergies. The protein in these formulas has been broken up into smaller pieces, which reduces the risk of your baby developing an allergic response. For babies at increased allergy risk, it is important that these types of formulas are used from the first formula feed and they cannot be used for a baby with an existing allergy. Always seek a healthcare professional’s advice about infant feeding matters.
Special formulas for allergy management – Breastfeeding is the best for your baby. However, if your baby has already been diagnosed with cows’ milk protein allergy, you might have been advised to use formulas for allergy management. These are special formulas that are either extensively hydrolysed or, for very serious cases, amino acid based. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional if your baby has been diagnosed with an allergy.
Pollen – Reaction to pollen from trees, grasses and weeds is more commonly known as hayfever. The protein found in these plants is similar to that found in certain fruits, putting some hayfever sufferers more at risk of oral allergy syndrome.
Rash – Food allergies often cause an itchy or red rash. But first check with your healthcare professional to rule out other causes.
Vomiting – Baby allergies and intolerances to certain foods can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach ache – although it can also be triggered by bacterial gut infections or viruses. If vomiting persists, see your GP.
Wheat – Allergic reactions to wheat are most common in infants and usually resolve within the first few years of life. This allergy requires strict avoidance of wheat and wheat-based foods like breads and breakfast cereals. A wheat-intolerant child may also not be able to eat rye, barley and oats. This is different to gluten intolerance. See a healthcare professional for diagnosis and dietary advice. And always read ingredient labels to identify wheat ingredients in food.
Yeast – Yeast is a fungus found naturally in the body and in many foods like breads and ripe fruits. Although rare, too much yeast in your child’s diet can trigger an allergic reaction or intolerance.