Baby allergy glossary
There’s lots to take in when first feeding your baby, so we’ve made an easy-digest guide to babies’ allergies.
Allergy symptoms in babies
Just like in adults, sneezing, red itchy rashes, runny or blocked noses, red and itchy watery eyes can all be signs of allergies in babies. While breathing difficulties, such as wheezing, can indicate a more severe case.
Anaphylaxis in babies
A rare, potentially life-threatening reaction involving the tightening of the airways making it difficult to breathe. Other symptoms baby might show include dizziness, swelling (e.g. of the tongue), itchy skin or turning pale and floppy.
The most common causes of anaphylactic reactions are from eating peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish. This type of reaction is usually immediate or within one hour of consumption. It can also occur after an insect sting. Call 999 immediately if you think baby is suffering anaphylactic shock.
Coeliac isn’t an allergy or an intolerance, but a lifelong autoimmune disease that can damage the lining of the gut. It can affect food absorption, leading to anaemia, lethargy and nutritional deficiencies. Symptoms of coeliac disease in babies may include diarrhoea and bloating. If your baby is diagnosed with coeliac disease, a gluten-free diet will stop these symptoms. For the best advice on foods to eat, speak to a dietitian.
There’s quite a few tests that can be used to identify any of your baby’s allergies, including a skin prick test, and blood tests. You may also be asked to follow an elimination diet or medically supervised oral challenges.
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 themselves.
This compound is released by the body when it detects an allergen, causing the skin to itch or develop a rash. Antihistamine creams and syrups can ease these symptoms to help relieve your baby.
The immune system protects us from potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, but sometimes it mistakes things like food proteins for something dangerous. It then sends antibodies into the blood stream triggering the release of histamine, resulting in an allergic reaction in your baby.
Lactose intolerance in babies
Whilst not an allergy, it is a common digestive problem, especially in an immature gut, where the body may be 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 allergies in babies
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 modify your child’s diet while ensuring they get enough of the nutrients they need, including calcium.
Should you need it, we’ve also got more information on cows’ milk protein allergy.
Peanuts and tree nuts are common food allergies in babies and adults. Nut traces can pop up frequently, so if your child has a 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 that are unable to exclusively breastfeed, specially hydrolysed formulas are available that have been 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’s important that these types of formulas are used from the first formula feed. They shouldn’t be used for a baby with an existing allergy, or where an allergy is suspected. When it comes to choosing or changing your baby’s main source of milk ask a healthcare professional for advice.
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.
Reaction to pollen from trees, grasses and weeds is more commonly known as hay fever. The protein found in these plants is similar to that found in certain fruits, putting some hay fever sufferers more at risk of oral allergy syndrome.
Food allergies often cause itchy or red rashes in babies. But first check with your healthcare professional to rule out other causes.
Baby allergies and intolerances to certain foods can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach ache - although these can also be triggered by bacterial gut infections or viruses. If vomiting persists, talk to your GP.
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.
For all things related to baby allergies have a look at our comprehensive guide to allergies in newborns.
If you’ve got an older baby and are concerned about weaning-related allergies, we’ve got information on food allergies and intolerances.