Pregnancy and baby

Food allergies in children

Should I worry about food allergies? (6 to 8 months)

Media last reviewed: 10/04/2013

Next review due: 10/04/2015

Babies are more likely to develop allergies if there's a history of eczema, asthma, hayfever or food allergies (known together as atopy) in the family.

If your baby has a family history of these conditions, it's recommended that you breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months. If you're not breastfeeding, ask your GP for advice on what kind of formula to give your baby.

When you start introducing solids (weaning), introduce the foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time so that you can spot any reaction. These foods are:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • wheat
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • fish and shellfish

Don't introduce any of these foods before six months.

Many children outgrow their allergies to milk or eggs, but a peanut allergy is generally lifelong. 

Children and peanut allergy

Allergies to nuts, nut products and some seeds affect 1-2% of the population. Your child has a higher risk of developing a peanut allergy if they already have a known allergy (such as eczema or a diagnosed food allergy), or there's a history of allergy in their immediate family (such as asthma, eczema or hay fever).

If this is the case, talk to your GP or health visitor before you give peanuts or food containing peanuts to your child for the first time.

If you would like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) while breastfeeding, you can do so unless you're allergic to them or your health professional advises you not to.

Avoid giving your child peanuts and foods containing peanuts before the age of six months. Foods containing peanuts include peanut butter, peanut (groundnut) oil and some snacks. Don't give whole peanuts or nuts to children under five years old because they could choke on them.

Read food labels carefully and avoid foods if you're not sure whether they contain peanuts.

How will I know if my child has a food allergy?

An allergic reaction can consist of one or more of the following:

  • diarrhoea or vomiting
  • a cough
  • wheezing and shortness of breath
  • itchy throat and tongue
  • itchy skin or rash
  • swollen lips and throat
  • runny or blocked nose
  • sore, red and itchy eyes

In a few cases, foods can cause a very severe reaction (anaphylaxis) that can be life threatening. If you think your child is having an allergic reaction to a food, seek medical advice. Don’t be tempted to experiment by cutting out a major food, such as milk, as this could lead to your child not getting the nutrients they need. Talk to your health visitor or GP, who may refer you to a registered dietitian.

Food additives and children

Food contains additives for a variety of reasons, such as to preserve it, to help make it safe to eat for longer, and to give colour or texture.

All food additives go through rigorous assessments for safety before they can be used. Food labelling must clearly show additives in the list of ingredients, including their name or 'E' number and their function, such as 'colouring' or 'preservative'.

A few people have adverse reactions to some food additives, but reactions to ordinary foods, such as milk or soya, are much more common. Read more about food additive intolerance.

Processed foods are more likely to contain additives and high levels of salt, sugar and fat. Therefore, it's best to avoid eating too many of these foods.

Further information


Page last reviewed: 23/09/2013

Next review due: 23/09/2015

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 8 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

Image alt text

Sign up for emails

Get weekly pregnancy and baby emails, linking to articles and over 100 videos of experts, mums and dads

Media last reviewed: 11/03/2013

Next review due: 11/03/2015

Services near you

Get help with all aspects of your parenting from the NHS in your area