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Education

Infancy

When your baby is diagnosed with food allergies, it is life-changing.

Food allergies can arise at any age, even in the youngest children. It’s normal to feel scared or overwhelmed when your baby is diagnosed with food allergies.

The constant vigilance needed to manage a young child’s food allergy takes a mental, emotional and even physical toll on parents. More than 90 percent of food allergy centers in the FARE Clinical Network report treating patients whose parents suffer from anxiety related to their child’s allergies. And compared to mothers whose young children do not have food allergies, mothers of food-allergic children under age 5 have higher blood pressures and report greater stress.

If you’re a parent or caregiver who’s experiencing food allergy stress, it’s important to take care of yourself, too. Consider joining a FARE-recognized food allergy support group in your area to meet, share and advocate with families like yours, who “get it.” You can search for a local licensed mental health professional through the Food Allergy Counselor Directory. You are not alone on this journey!

Before the Diagnosis

Do not diagnose a food allergy on your own. Self-diagnosis can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and inadequate nutrition, especially in children. An allergist will take a thorough medical history, asking questions about overall health and eating habits to determine if food allergy may be causing your child’s symptoms and to identify the culprit food(s). The allergist will also perform a physical exam. Keeping a food and symptom journal prior to your visit can be a helpful tool to assist the doctor in establishing your child’s medical history.

The allergist may decide that further testing is needed before a diagnosis can be made. Learn more about diagnosis and testing.

After the Diagnosis

There’s no approved treatment to prevent food allergy reactions, so allergy management requires strict avoidance of the problem food. Young children are messy eaters, and infants are eager to explore everything they encounter with their mouths, making staple foods like cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt especially hard to avoid.

Infant Food Allergy Basics

Cow's Milk Protein

The stakes are high for managing infant allergies to cow’s milk protein. In the short term, each food allergy reaction diminishes quality of life and risks triggering the severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms of anaphylaxis. In the long term, having an active early allergy to cow’s milk – especially an allergy that causes eczema and damages the skin barrier – can increase the risk of developing other food allergies and additional allergic conditions such as hay fever and asthma. This progression of allergy development is called the allergic march.

Nearly 3 percent of U.S. infants develop a food allergy in the first year of life. More than half of these babies – 53 percent – react to cow’s milk protein. Infants encounter this common allergen in milk and milk products, as well as in breastmilk if milk products are part of the mother’s diet.

Peanut Food Allergy Prevention

Between 1997 and 2008, the number of U.S. children with peanut allergy more than tripled. During this time, in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended delaying the introduction of commonly allergenic foods to children at higher risk for food allergy. Unfortunately, this recommendation wasn't based on clear scientific evidence. We now know that delaying allergenic foods doesn’t protect against food allergies, and we have solid evidence that early introduction of peanut foods can lower the risk of developing an allergy to peanut.

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Baby after eating
Baby Eating

Early Allergen Introduction to Decrease Food Allergy Risk

Recent landmark studies and guidelines are changing the way we think about early food introduction. Learn more in this webinar.

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