Weaning guide launched by allergy specialists

Allergy UK, a national charity for people living with allergies, has published a new weaning factsheet aimed at parents and carers who are introducing their baby to solid foods.

Written by the charity in collaboration with specialist allergy dieticians, the factsheet focuses on introducing babies to solid foods that may be associated with food allergy, and was requested by callers to the charity’s helpline service.

According to Allergy UK, allergic disease is on the rise, most dramatically in young children. Those aged 0 – 4 years, it says, are now five times more likely to have an allergy. And where food allergy is concerned, the most common triggers in babies are eggs, milk and peanuts.

“The introduction of solid foods (also called weaning or complementary feeding) is both an exciting and nervous time for parents,” says Holly Shaw, Allergy UK nurse advisor.

“Our weaning information has been developed to provide best practice recommendations to help address some of the questions parents commonly have about how and when to start, the types of foods to introduce and considerations around food allergy and eczema which we hope will help guide parents to make informed decisions about weaning their baby.”

According to Allergy UK, the introduction of solid foods and the risk of food allergy may be a concern for parents, since it can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis – though this is rare. This particularly applies to parents of children with eczema, who the charity suggests have a 30 – 50 per cent risk of developing food allergy.

 

Up-to-date advice

Currently, the Department of Health recommends that foods with a high risk of allergic reaction can be introduced to babies who are six months old, including milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, soya, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and seeds (there’s no evidence to support delaying the introduction of such foods for longer). They should be introduced one at a time, with a gap of three days in between each new food, so that if something causes a reaction it may be easier to identify.

You should make sure your baby is healthy when you start introducing high allergenic foods, and once they’ve eaten an individual food a few times you can start mixing them with other foods. By the time your baby is a year old, they should have been introduced to all the major allergenic foods (where appropriate), the charity adds.

 

How to spot the signs

According to Allergy UK, mild to moderate symptoms of food allergy usually affect the skin, the respiratory system or the gut. These include:

  • Facial flushing, hives, a red itchy rash around the mouth tongue or eyes that can spread across the body
  • Mild facial swelling (including the lips and eyes)
  • Sneezing, runny or blocked nose, watery eyes
  • Scratchy or itchy mouth and throat
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhoea

Food allergy symptoms can also be delayed, and may include:

  • Eczema
  • Reflux (effortless vomiting)
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Frequent crying and distress
  • Poor growth

Meanwhile, if a baby has a severe reaction to a food (anaphylaxis), the symptoms can include:

  • Asthma attack-like symptoms (wheezing, chest tightness)
  • Swelling of the tongue and throa
  • Dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness
  • Shock caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure

If your baby is displaying any of the signs of anaphylaxis, they need urgent medical attention.

 

For more information, you can access the factsheet from the Allergy UK website or call the Allergy UK Helpline on 01322 619 898.

For advice on allergy in general, you can also speak to your local Careway pharmacist who can give you tips on how to manage it. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.