My older child has food allergies. Now, I’m afraid to introduce his allergens to his younger sibling. I know I need to, but how can I do it safely?
Great question! And, many of us can relate to your concerns.
What is the real risk?
Here’s something encouraging to keep in mind: Most siblings of kids with food allergies do not develop food allergies themselves. Studies by lead author Dr. Richi Gupta (2015) showed that siblings only have a minimally higher chance of having food allergies. And, researchers warned against having siblings allergy tested before introducing food because it increases the odds of false positives, resulting in avoiding foods unnecessarily.
Bottom Line: Most siblings have no greater risk of having food allergies than any other kid without a food allergic sibling. That offers a little relief!
New Feeding Guidelines:
In January 2017, the experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recommended feeding infants appropriate eggs, fish, dairy, peanut-containing foods (not whole peanuts for fear of choking), or other highly allergenic foods between 4 and 6 months after speaking with your pediatrician. Contrary to advice many of us were given with our first child, research now shows that delaying introduction may actually increase your baby’s risk of developing food allergies.
[Please read: Understanding the New Peanut Allergy Prevention Guidelines for more information and a list of peanut-containing foods.]
Bottom Line: You’re actually HELPING your baby by introducing highly allergenic food on time by reducing his/her risk of developing food allergies. Now’s the time to overcome your fear!
What’s the best way to introduce your baby to a food your older child is allergic to?
After your pediatrician okays introduction and your baby consistently tolerates solid food, plan to introduce one food at a time waiting 3-5 days in between new foods.
- For the first introduction, buy the new food in single serving size if possible. This limits accidental exposure and cross contamination risk. Be sure to store extras, if any, somewhere out of reach of your older child.
- It might be easiest to introduce a new food when you are alone with your child, so that you can carefully serve the first food, clean up, and observe for reactions.
- Consider taking your baby on a picnic or outing close to home to minimize your concern about crumbs in the house.
- Bring your cellphone with you in the unlikely case of a reaction.
- Remember, that dishwashers are an effective way (but not the only way!) to wash away allergens. And, hand sanitizers do not get rid of food protein. Wash hands with soap and water after handling your older child’s allergen.
- Feed your baby the new food then wait 10 minutes, looking for signs of negative reaction: hives, swelling, behavioral changes or trouble breathing. If no reaction occurs, continue feeding and monitor for about 2 hours.
When my younger two children were ready to try peanut-containing food, I bought snack size peanut butter cracker sandwiches. I took each child separately to the local park and had a picnic. We brought lots of wipes to clean hands and mouth before returning home without a reaction! It was a special (and productive) day for us both.
How Do I Keep Allergenic Food Safely in the House?
Once you’ve established that your baby isn’t allergic to each new food, you may wish to continue keeping it on hand in your home. Often it is necessary for him or her nutritionally to continue eating allergenic foods like milk, eggs, wheat, etc. But, it’s important to store the foods your older child is allergic to safely so that your older child avoids accidental ingestion and reaction.
If you haven’t already done so, consider implementing a system to label the safe foods in your kitchen Please read, Food Labels to see the simple system we use here at my house.
Think of what a relief it will be once you know your baby can tolerate each new food. You can do this! Good luck!