As a mother, introducing solid foods to our baby can be quite stressful.
There's literally a bazillion questions we're faced with every single day. When should I start introducing solids? What food should I start with? Why isn't he opening his mouth? Am I giving him too much? Too little? Should he still be drinking milk?
Today, I'll be addressing one question in particular, which happens to be very close to my heart: "How do I know if my child has a food allergy and what should I do?"
I've mentioned quite a few times that my son is allergic to eggs but I don't think I've ever explained exactly how I found out.
Before I get started, I wanted to share a guide I created for you. It explains how to replace eggs in cooking and baking. There's also a section about how to shop for packaged foods with an egg allergy.
There was vomit everywhere.
Literally. On the back car seat, on the baby seat, on my son, on my husband, on the door, on the ground outside the car. I was amazed at how much food there had been in his little stomach.
Naturally, I undressed him and was about to wipe the car a bit when I noticed rashes and swelling in red patches all over his chest, neck, and .... FACE! I could barely see his eyes anymore.
Then I heard it. That sound no mother wants to hear. Wheezing.
The kind you get when you have an asthma attack and you feel like someone is crushing your neck. Thankfully, he was coughing, it means your body is still fighting.
I strapped him into his car seat naked and we rushed to the nearest hospital (note: if this happens to you, call the ambulance, don't take your car). Even though the hospital was about 10 minutes away, it was the longest car ride in my life.
As we approached the hospital, his face was so swollen he was unrecognizable. It wasn't long that he stopped coughing and he was changing color. You should have seen me jump out of the car and rush into the emergency.
I didn't even have to say anything, the guard took him and called resuscitation staff stat. Within 1 minute he had 3 pediatrician around him, a shot of Epipen, a dose of Benadryl and a puff of Ventolin.
It was close. VERY close. But our little baby boy was safe.
That story still gives me goose bumps to this day, and it's not something I wish on anyone. Ever. Which is why I'd like to help you identify food allergies.
So, how do you know if your child has a food allergy?
First, it's important to understand that there are different levels of food allergies. Some are very mild, and others are life threatening in a very scary way. Either way, they should be taken very seriously.
Introduce Foods One at a Time
The easiest way to recognize a food allergy for the first time in babies is to introduce foods one at a time.
The first time you introduce a food, there will be no reaction because the body doesn't know the food and doesn't know how to react.
The second time around (I suggest the next day), if there is an allergic reaction, it will be mild, and you'll notice a rash or swelling on his stomach/chest. This could take anywhere from a few minutes to about 2 hours after he ate the food. It's important to check because it'll give you an indication on what to expect the third time you give the food.
The third time is when you can get a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which is life threatening since you can literally stop breathing. If you notice any reaction other than a skin rash, call the emergency. Don't wait!
I suggest introducing the known allergens last, like cow's milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy and fish.
Learn How To Recognize Food Allergy Symptoms
Since your child may not be able to speak to express how he's feeling, I'm only going to give you the symptoms you can see and hear.
Swelling of the lips and tongue
Breathing difficulties, wheezing and coughing
Loss of consciousness
Know What To Do in Case of an Allergic Reaction
If an allergic reaction isn't something you're already aware of and have an epipen for, or if you suspect anything, call a health information line (ours in Quebec is 811). On the other hand, if you see a rapid evolution of the symptoms stated above, call the emergency ambulance service (911 in Canada). You will have enough time to recognize the symptoms and call so don't panic, but don't wait either if you're not sure. Minutes count! In either situation, I suggest notifying your child's pediatrician as soon as possible and meet with him to ask all your questions.
Here are some egg free dessert recipes I've shared in the past that I think you might like:
Like I mentioned above, I wrote a 4 page guide for you about replacing eggs in cooking and baking. It also includes a list of synonyms of eggs to look out for when shopping packaged foods.
Do you have any questions about food allergies you'd like me to address? Egg in particular? I'd love to help and answer any questions you might have! Have you ever witnessed a severe allergic reaction?
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am simply a mom sharing her experience. If you have any doubts, please contact your medical professional or 911 in case of an emergency.