Food Allergies in Children: How & When to Test

Sponsored by Children’s Mercy Wichita.

Cute baby child eating food, sitting on high chair.

Food allergies can be stressful for parents and kids alike. Even fun events like sleepovers and dinners out can come with concerns of allergy exposure. As many as 1 in 13 children are affected by food allergies, but studies have shown that early introduction can help children to avoid the development of food allergies.

On the contrary, avoiding allergenic foods can potentially increase the risk of development of food allergies. Keep reading to learn when and how to introduce these foods, and what to look for when keeping an eye out for an allergic reaction.

Getting Started

“Early” introduction really means to introduce foods as soon as babies are ready for “solids,” including baby purees. This generally takes place anywhere from 4 to 6 months old. In general, early introduction is prior to 11 months of age.

If your child is over 11 months, it is still important to introduce foods rather than avoiding them! Discuss food introduction with your pediatrician to ensure your child is not at a heightened risk for developing food allergies. 

Introducing New Foods

A handful of foods are considered the most common allergens. But it’s important to note your child can be allergic to other foods not on this list. The most common allergens include:

  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

When introducing a new food, start with one at a time, spread apart by 3 days. Begin with a very small amount (a lick counts!) and give progressively more of the food every 15 minutes or so until a serving is reached, or your baby becomes full.

We recommend starting this in the morning (not just before a nap), when the baby is with a parent or guardian. After the introduction of each food, it is important to keep offering it as part of your child’s diet, so they will hopefully remain tolerant of the food.

Allergy Signs

After testing a food, there are a few signs and symptoms to watch for. Mild symptoms can include:

  • Hives
  • Itching of the tongue or lips
  • Sudden runny nose
  • Mild nausea or gut discomfort

There can also be severe symptoms, including:

  • Widespread hives or redness
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the tongue or lips
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Turning blue
  • Coughing 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms can appear within minutes and up to 2 hours. If symptoms are severe, or there is more than 1 mild symptom, call 911. If symptoms are mild, discuss with your pediatrician.

Treating Food Allergies

Avoiding the allergen is the primary treatment for food allergies. For some allergies, there are also oral immunotherapy options available.

Regardless of signs of an allergy, have a conversation with your pediatrician by your child’s 6-month appointment. As a parent, it can be intimidating to try something new with your children, but it is important to remember that, by introducing foods early, you are trying to help your child avoid food allergies which have a significant impact on wellbeing and quality of life.

Children’s Mercy Wichita offers a child-friendly environment to provide families access to pediatric specialty care that otherwise might not be available without traveling out of the community including Cardiology, Endocrinology, Nephrology, Hepatology, Neurosurgery, Plastic Surgery and more. 


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