Babies and food allergies

5min read

If you have a family history of food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever, you may need to be particularly careful when introducing solid foods, because babies are more likely to have an allergy if there is a history of these conditions in the family. A food allergy typically causes an immediate reaction after eating the food – usually seconds or minutes after eating it.

Signs and symptoms

Introduce the foods that are common food allergens (see list below), individually, and in the morning or early afternoon so that you can look out for any reaction to that food.

The signs to look out for include:

  • Any changes in breathing – breathing heavily or shortness of breath
  • Itchy skin/ hives or a rash
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Coughing or vomiting
  • Worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms

It is important to seek medical advice if your baby shows any of these signs.

If your baby displays any of these signs: a tightening of the throat, difficulty breathing, feeling faint or a pale and clammy appearance, and swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, or tongue – call 111, your GP or visit A & E.

Common food allergies

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soya
  • Gluten products including wheat, rye, barley

Other foods that can cause a reaction

  • Citrus fruits (e.g. oranges), Seed fruits (strawberries) and Kiwi fruit
  • Mustard
  • Sulphites
  • Tomatoes

The effects of a food intolerance

  • Stomach pain or colic
  • Bloating
  • Wind
  • Diarrhoea and occasionally vomiting

The most common food intolerances are the same foods as for allergies, however intolerances do not involve the immune system.

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting. 

Other organisations that can help

Visit the NHS website for further advice and support on food allergies 

The NCT website has online advice about food intolerances in babies 

This advice was reviewed and updated by the Camden NHS Infant Feeding Community team.