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Food is generally the first thing to cause an allergic reaction in infants. The most common allergy is to cow's milk, but infants and children frequently develop allergies to other foods such as peanuts, eggs, and grains. A child has a 40 to 70% chance of developing allergies if both parents have allergies. A child with only one parent who has allergies has a 20 to 30% chance, and the odds drop to 10% if neither parent has allergies. Allergies can develop with very little contact with the allergen, and once an allergic pattern is set, the child is likely to become allergic to other allergens. This sets up a cycle that can make a child miserable.

SIGNS OF FOOD ALLERGIES

The following symptoms can be an indication of a food allergy.

Hives
Wheezing
Crying
Vomiting
Eczema
Colic
Diarrhea
"Allergic Shiners" (bluish-brown color around the eyes)
Flushed ears and cheeks
Recurrent sore throat
Puffy or red, irritated eyes
Chronic nasal congestion
Difficulty breathing
Hay fever
Nosebleeds
"Growing pains" (leg pains)
Headaches
Bedwetting

DANGERS OF FOOD ALLERGIES

Allergic reactions to food can lead to attention deficit disorder (ADD), chronic ear infections, arthritis, and asthma. The allergic reaction itself can render a child unconscious and can be fatal. This happens when an allergy causes anaphylactic shock. The eyes, lips, face, and throat swell within a few seconds.

PREVENTION

The best prevention for food allergies in infants is to breastfeed for at least one year because breast milk builds a healthy immune system. However, a breastfeeding mother should be aware of what she eats because allergens from food can pass through the breast milk to the infant. Another key to preventing an allergic sensitivity to foods is to limit environmental allergens such as dust mites, smoke, or pet dander. Care should be taken when introducing solid foods to a baby's diet. Begin with one meal per day and start with foods that normally do not cause allergies such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Begin with vegetables first, and use a rotation diet. Cook all foods at first, even fruit. Pay attention to your babies reactions after eating each food and take note of them in a feeding diary. Never feed cow's milk to a child under the age of 2 or peanuts to a child under 3.