Allergies in Young Children

If a family member or your baby has a food allergy or eczema, you may have some additional concerns and questions about starting solids food, including whether there is anything you can do to reduce the risk of your baby developing food allergies.

In recent years several research studies have been undertaken to investigate the best way to try to prevent allergies in infants and young children. They have looked in to how the timing of the introduction of the most commonly allergenic foods (including egg and peanut) affects the risk of developing an allergy to these foods.

This research has led to the development of special written guidance by the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) which gives information on “how to prevent food allergies in babies at higher risk”.

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General Weaning Guidance

  • right_arrow_orange_icon Exclusive breastfeeding for around the first six months of life.  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon If your baby does NOT have a food allergy already and/or does NOT have eczema, it's recommended that you follow the standard weaning guidelines given by the NHS. See the NHS website for more details. 

Common Allergenic Foods

From around six months of age (but not before four months), introduce complementary foods (solids) including foods known to cause food allergies, alongside continued breastfeeding.
You may wish to introduce commonly allergenic foods one at a time and in small amounts so that you can spot any reactions. These can be introduced alongside other foods, once weaning is established, from around six months of age.

These commonly allergenic foods are: 
  • right_arrow_orange_icon cows’ milk (in cooking or mixed with food)  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon eggs (eggs without a red lion stamp should not be eaten raw or lightly cooked)  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon nuts and peanuts (serve them crushed, ground or as a nut butter)  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon seeds (serve them crushed or ground or as tahini)  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon soya  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon fish  
  • right_arrow_orange_icon shellfish (don’t serve raw or lightly cooked) 

Introducing Foods

It is expected that these foods will all be tolerated without any issues in most babies.
Once introduced, if tolerated, it’s recommended that you continue to offer these foods regularly (ideally at least a couple of times a week) to reduce the risk of an allergy developing.
Scientific evidence suggests that the introduction of hen’s eggs and peanuts (in a suitable form for babies) in particular, should not be delayed past 6-12 months, as the evidence suggests this may increase the risk of developing an allergy to those foods.
Even if another family member has a food allergy, you should still follow these guidelines whilst taking any necessary precautions to keep the food-allergic person safe.

Babies with a Food Allergy or Eczema 

We know that some babies are at higher risk of getting a food allergy these include:

  • babies with eczema (particularly severe eczema)
  • babies who already have a food allergy

If Your Baby has Eczema

If your baby has eczema (especially if the eczema is very bad), or already has a food allergy you may be able to reduce the risk of them developing other allergies by following the weaning guidance that has been developed by the BSACI. Research has shown that these babies may benefit from the earlier introduction of solids foods – from four months of age – including peanut and egg in a suitable form. You can find out more information and recommendations of how to introduce these foods in the following document.
Infant Feeding and Allergy Prevention Guidance for Parents  
We recommend that you follow this guidance in consultation with your baby’s GP, Health Visitor or Allergy Specialist.

Weaning & Allergy Research 

If you would like to read more about the two major studies that have contributed to the development of the BSACI guidance, further information is available on the following websites  

The LEAP Study  
The EAT Study 
Edited and reviewed by Rachel De Boer, Paediatric Dietician at Evelina London Children’s Hospital