Food allergies can be a common concern during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infant feeding and the childhood years. Anyone can develop food allergies. However, your child is at a higher risk if there is a family history of food allergies.
What is a Food Allergy
A food allergy is the body’s negative reaction to part of a food that it feels is foreign. For some people, even eating a small amount of this food can cause death.
Food allergies may develop during the first year of your child’s life. A child may or may not outgrow food allergies. Allergies to cow’s milk, wheat, soy and eggs may be outgrown. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish tend to be more serious and can last a lifetime.
Note: There is no cure for food allergies. The only option is to completely take away the food that’s causing the allergy from your child’s diet.
Common Foods That Cause Allergies
- Seafoods (fish, shellfish, etc.)
- Sulphites (food additive)
- Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.)
- Other – Ask your doctor if you think your child is allergic to other foods
Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Reaction
- Flushed face, hives or skin rash or red itchy skin
- Swollen eyes, face, lips, throat or tongue
- Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
- Wheezing, coughing
- Appearing anxious, weak, “faint” or looking pale
- Stomach pain, cramps, diarrhea or vomiting
- Shock or complete collapse (anaphylactic shock)
What is Anaphylactic Shock?
Anaphylactic (a-na-fi-lak-tik) shock is the most serious allergic reaction that can lead to coma and death. It can happen within minutes after eating a specific food. This type of severe reaction affects one to two percent of the population. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Protecting Against Food Allergies
When You Are Pregnant
- Avoid foods that you are allergic to.
- Do not avoid foods that the father of the baby is allergic to. If you avoid certain foods, you may be missing important nutrients for your health and the growth of the baby.
- Follow these healthy eating during pregnancy tips.
When Your Baby is Zero to Six Months Old
- Breastfeed your baby. Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life for healthy term infants.
- Do not avoid foods that the father of the baby is allergic to.
- Avoid foods that you are allergic to when you are breastfeeding.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods according to Canada’s Food Guide when you are breastfeeding.
When Your Baby is Six to 12 Months Old
- Continue to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond. Introduce your baby to complementary foods at six months.
- Offer iron-rich foods first. Examples of these foods are: cooked meat, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, beans and lentils, and iron-rich cereals.
- After introducing iron-rich foods, offer vegetables, fruit and milk products (such as yogurt and cheese) in no particular order.
- Provide a variety of foods with soft textures such as lumpy, finely minced, pureed, mashed or ground.
- Offer safe finger foods such as pieces of soft-cooked vegetables and fruit; soft, ripe fruit; finely minced, ground or mashed cooked meat, deboned fish and poultry; grated cheese; and bread crusts or toasts.
- Homogenized milk (3.25% M.F.) can be introduced after nine to twelve months of age, and when the child is eating a variety of solid foods.
- Do not give honey to babies under one year of age.
Some foods are known to cause allergic reactions and can be introduced from about six months of age. These foods include wheat, fish, shellfish, whole eggs, milk products, peanut products and tree nut products. When introducing one of these foods that can cause an allergic reaction, give only one of these foods at a time and wait two days before offering another one of the foods that can cause an allergic reaction. Other types of food can be offered daily.
Tips When Eating Out
Food allergies can be a common concern during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infant feeding and childhood years. Anyone can develop food allergies. However, your child is at a higher risk if there is a family history of food allergies.
- Let the server know about your child’s food allergy.
- Read the menu carefully to check if there are foods your child is allergic to.
- Ask the server to check with the cook that your order does not contain the allergy-causing foods.
- If you are not sure, order something else or eat somewhere else.
Managing Your Child's Allergy
- Learn about food allergies.
- Do not give your child the food or food ingredient that caused the allergy.
- Read food labels. Check the ingredients every time you buy a food product.
- Avoid food products (including imported products) without ingredient lists.
- Avoid foods sold in bulk bins.
- Inform caregivers, schools and health care providers what foods your child is allergic to.
- Prepare for emergencies. Always carry an EpiPen® and follow your doctor’s advice on how to use it.
- Make sure your child wears a medical alert bracelet stating the foods the child is allergic to. Call Medic Alert at 416-696-0267 for more information.
- Speak with a Registered Dietitian to help plan a balanced diet for your child.