Children who face the highest risk of food allergies are those with parents or siblings who suffer from certain allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema, or hayfever.
If you're concerned your baby could be at risk, introduce the foods that commonly cause allergies one at a time so you can spot any reactions. Do not introduce any of these foods before six months.
Foods related to allergies include:
- Wheat-based foods such as bread, rusks, some breakfast cereals, as well as other foods containing gluten e.g. barley, oats and rye
- Nuts and peanuts
- Fish and shellfish
- Soft and unpasteurised cheeses
Symptoms to look out for:
- 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
Peanut allergy isn’t common, but it does appear to be increasing among children.
If your family has a history of peanut allergy your baby is in a higher-risk group. It would be sensible to talk to your GP or health visitor before you give any peanuts or foods containing peanuts to them for the first time.
Top 10 foods and drinks to avoid
Babies up to 6 months-old should have less than 1g salt a day. From 7 months to a year-old they should have a maximum of 1g salt a day. Salt should not be added to any foods for babies because their kidneys can't cope with it. Baby foods you'll find in supermarkets are also not allowed to contain any added salt.
Limit giving them foods that are high in salt such as cheese, bacon and sausages, and avoid giving your little one any processed foods that aren't made specifically for babies, such as pasta sauces and breakfast cereals.
Sugar can encourage a sweet tooth and lead to tooth decay when the baby's first teeth start to come through. It’s also best to avoid adding sugar to any foods or drinks for your baby.
Your baby should not have honey before the age of 1. Very occasionally, honey can contain a type of bacteria that can produce toxins in a baby's intestines. This can cause serious illness called infant botulism. Your baby’s gut is only mature enough to cope with the bacteria and prevent it from multiplying at around a year-old.
Whole nuts, including peanuts, should not be given to children under 5 years in case of choking.
5) Low-fat foods
Low-fat foods such as yoghurt, fromage frais, cheese or spreads, are not suitable for babies or children under the age of 2. This is because fat is an important source of calories and vitamins which they need.
6) Cows' milk
Full-fat cow’s milk is not suitable to drink until your baby is 12 months-old, but can be used in cooking for babies from 6 months.
Semi-skimmed milk isn't suitable as a drink for children under 2. It can be introduced from 2 years-old, if the child is a good eater and has a varied diet.
Skimmed milk isn't suitable for children under 5 years-old.
This is the best alternative drink to milk, but fully breastfed babies don't need any water until they start eating solid food. For babies under 6-months old, cooled boiled water can be given.
Some natural bottled waters have mineral contents unsuitable for babies. However, there are some that are suitable for infant feeding. Look out for bottled waters that have a 'suitable for infant feeding' statement on labels. Unlike tap water, bottled water is not sterile so it should be boiled and cooled before giving it to your baby.
8) Fruit juice
Fruit juices should not be given to your baby before they are 6 months old. Although fruit juices are a good source of vitamin C, they can reduce your baby's appetite for milk. Fruit juice also contains natural sugars that can cause tooth decay. From 6 months, you can give very diluted juice (one part juice with ten parts cooled, boiled water) in a feeding cup at mealtimes only.
9) Squashes, fizzy drinks, flavoured milk and juice drinks
These are not suitable for young babies. They contain a lot of sugar and even when diluted, they can cause tooth decay.
10) Tea and coffee
Tea and coffee contain caffeine which is unsuitable for babies, and these drinks can prevent your baby from absorbing iron from food.