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How to Tell if Your Baby Has Food Allergies

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It's every mom's worst nightmare: she feeds her baby some sweet morsel -- a strawberry, peanut butter -- but as soon as he gobbles it up, his face turns red. He starts gasping for air.

Fear of food allergies is rampant among parents for good reason: 1 in every 13 kids is allergic to some food, according to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). Luckily the steps are pretty simple for keeping an eye out for food allergies and even lowering the odds of them happening. Here's how to tell if your child has a food allergy:

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Food allergies signs & symptoms

1. Introduce foods one at a time. To help you home in on any foods that might trigger an allergy in your baby, it's best to feed him simple, single-ingredients foods to start -- that way, if he has a reaction, you know exactly what the culprit is! "Starting around 6 months, the first food offered is usually a single grain cereal like rice cereal, but fruits or vegetables may also be introduced," says Dr. Bridget Boyd, MD, a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System. If all goes well, try a new food about every three days. Once you know by "taste test" that certain single-ingredient foods are fine, you can start introducing "stage 2" foods that are combos of the above, like cereal mixed with strawberries.

2. Know which foods to watch for. "The top eight food allergens are dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, and peanuts," says Shari Zucker, co-author with her twin sister Judi of The Ultimate Allergy-Free Cookbook. These account for 90 percent of all food allergies, so keep your radar on high around these foods.

More from The Stir: When Kids With Food Allergies Are Treated Like Outcasts at School

3. But don't avoid them! Swear a peanut will never touch your child's lips? We get it, and in years past, doctors used to recommend that parents hold off on feeding their babies certain highly allergenic foods like eggs, fish, and strawberries. But that's no longer necessary. In fact, introducing foods late may actually increase your baby's risk for food allergies, says Amanda Krupa, an editor at HealthyChildren.org.

4. Keep an eye out for the signs of a reaction. The most common signs of a food allergy are body rashes including eczema, itchy eyes, and trouble breathing, says Zucker. An upset stomach and ear pulling (called otitis media) can also be a red flag.

More from The Stir: 10 Things Never to Say to a Mom of a Kid With Food Allergies

5. Consider genetics. "The number one reason for a food allergy is genetics," says Zucker. So if you've got food allergies, you'll want to be especially vigilant. That said, just because you're allergic to shellfish doesn't mean your baby will be, or that he'll avoid this allergy if you did. Kids don't inherit allergies to particular foods as much as they inherit the likelihood of having food allergies in general.

6. Have your baby tested. While allergy testing is the best way to get an accurate diagnoses, the traditional skin test -- where small amounts of allergens are injected under the baby's skin -- isn't always possible. One, your baby's so small, you'll run out of space fast! Plus, having your child poked dozens of times may just sound too torturous. But there is an alternative: a blood test, which entails only one needle. So consider asking for this less arduous option instead.

Is there a food allergy in your family? What is it?

 

Image © Justin Paget/Corbis

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