7.6 percent of children in the U.S. have some kind of food allergy. With those odds, it can feel nerve-wracking to try introducing new foods to your baby. You never know what food could cause a reaction this time.
It’s especially scary if you don’t know the common signs of an allergic reaction or what a baby food allergy rash looks like. What if you don’t notice it the first time and the allergy gets worse?
Luckily, you can learn all the signs and symptoms of a food allergy to be better able to protect your baby. Keep reading to learn how to recognize and treat a food allergy, and how to introduce foods to your baby safely.
What Is a Food Allergy Rash?
A food allergy rash is caused by an overreaction of the immune system when exposed to a food. While normally our immune systems work to protect us from bacteria, viruses, funguses, and other intruders, sometimes it misidentifies a food enzyme as a threat. Some common allergies for babies to have are peanut allergies and allergies to cow’s milk.
There are multiple kinds of reactions that your immune system will have in order to try to rid the body of the intruder. One of them is an itchy rash that can appear all over the body or at the initial point of contact with the offending food.
How Does It Work?
When a foreign food enters the body, IgE antibodies release histamine into the bloodstream which is meant to protect the body. This causes blood vessels to widen and release fluid (to flush out the offending enzymes. Unfortunately, it also causes inflammation under the skin which leads to the visible (and itchy) rash.
Identifying a Baby Food Allergy Rash
Unfortunately, a lot of things can cause a rash from foodborne and airborne allergies to infections like the hand, foot, and mouth disease. It isn’t always immediately clear that a baby’s rash was caused by food. So it’s important to know the signs that you’re dealing with a food allergy rash.
Time of Occurrence
The biggest clue that you’re dealing with a food allergy rash is that it will appear almost immediately after your baby eats something. This is particularly notable if it happens while you introduce your baby to new food (especially if it’s allergenic foods).
Appearance of the Rash
Food allergy rashes also appear differently from other rashes. Food allergy rashes are almost always hives and get concentrated in a single area. If it’s a more severe allergic reaction, it may spread further. Hives look like tiny individual bumps that cluster together to create the appearance of a larger rash.
Other Signs of a Food Allergy Rash
Sometimes, your baby won’t have hives at all and will instead have a red inflamed area that never becomes raised. In other cases, eczema can be worsened by a food allergy.
Another great way to identify a rash as a food allergy rash is to take note of other symptoms of a food allergy that accompany the rash.
Types of Allergic Reactions
Not every allergic reaction is the same, but if you want to confirm that your child is experiencing a food allergy rash, you should learn the signs and symptoms of the different kinds of reactions.
It’s also important to have this information because different levels of reactions require different kinds of medical care. Let’s look at the common signs of allergic reactions at different levels.
A mild food allergy is non-life-threatening, and the symptoms involved mostly consist of discomfort. While they may not be that serious now, it’s important not to overlook them. If you notice that your child has minor reactions to a food, stop serving it to them in case the allergy worsens.
Mild allergic reactions can include:
- Stomach pains
- Itchy eyes
- Eczema symptoms
A moderate reaction falls somewhere between slight discomfort and a medical emergency. You may want to receive medical attention for this kind of reaction, and it will be much more immediately clear that your child is having one.
The symptoms of a moderate allergic reaction are the same as the above for a mild reaction but at a higher intensity. Pay particular attention to any swelling of the face as this can lead to anaphylaxis (rare in babies) – a symptom of a severe reaction.
Severe food allergy reactions are causes for medical attention. We’ll get to what you need to do about a severe reaction in a moment, but here’s what you need to look out for and take very seriously:
- Swelling of the tongue
- Closing throat (anaphylaxis)
- Heavy coughing
- Wheezing breaths
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Loss of consciousness or fainting
- Rapid heartbeat
Treating a Food Allergy Rash
A food allergy rash will typically clear up in less than 48 hours, but there are things that you can do to make the symptoms less uncomfortable. And of course, if it’s a severe reaction you need to do more to keep it from becoming a medical emergency.
For any kind of allergic reaction to food, it’s important for you to keep track of what your baby has been eating. Many new parents choose to keep a food journal, that way they can quickly remember and identify any foods that may have caused the reaction.
Mild and Moderate
For mild and moderate allergic reactions, treatment is meant to treat just the symptoms of the allergy and make your baby feel better. A small rash confined to a small area of the body is typical of a mild food allergy and is not cause for a lot of concern.
One of the best ways to treat a food allergy rash is to give your baby a low dose of an antihistamine. Antihistamines block the histamine response and help to prevent the inflammation that comes with it. Make sure that you consult your doctor about the proper dosage.
For itchiness relief, apply hydrocortisone cream to the affected area.
A common sign of a severe allergic reaction in a baby is a rash that spreads all over the body instead of being confined to a single location. This means that the allergic reaction has entered all throughout the bloodstream, and there can be big risks to that.
If you notice a rash all over your baby’s body after they eat new food, immediately call 911 or your doctor. Keep monitoring your baby for new symptoms as you receive professional medical advice.
Testing Your Baby for Food Allergies
If you have a family history of food allergies or if your baby has experienced an allergic reaction, you may decide to test them for food allergies. These tests can help set your mind at ease and ensure that you aren’t exposing your baby to unsafe foods.
After your baby experiences an allergic reaction, your doctor will typically set up an allergy test to confirm any suspicions about the offending food. They can administer a skin prick test, oral food challenge, or blood test.
All of these methods are proven to be effective and safe for confirming food allergies. Never try to determine food allergies on your own as you don’t want to set off a severe reaction in your child. Let the doctors find the cause, and then follow their advice.
How to Safely Expose Your Baby to Food
Sometimes introducing your baby to potential allergens early on can help prevent them from developing an allergy later. Clinical guidelines recommend introducing common allergenic foods in the first year of life so that the immune system isn’t shocked by them later.
Some common allergies in children are peanuts, tree nuts, cow’s milk, wheat, and soy. While most babies don’t start having cow’s milk until they are a year old, the others can be introduced in small quantities as soon as they start eating solid foods.
When you introduce any new food, make sure that you take note that it’s new and be prepared to notice even the mildest allergic reaction. Let your doctor know at your next checkup if you noticed anything suspicious with the foods you’ve been feeding your baby. Try not to introduce multiple new foods at once so you don’t get confused about what caused a reaction.
Staying Safe During Feeding Time
When you know how to recognize a baby food allergy rash, you’re better able to protect your baby during feeding time. Consider keeping a food journal to track trying new foods and any potential reactions. Always check with your physician about the proper times to introduce foods and be prepared to treat any mild rashes with an antihistamine and hydrocortisone.
Does your child have a food allergy? Are you looking for freedom from it? Check out our Tolerance Induction Program for allergy relief!