Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Allergy foods

4-minute read

Babies can usually be introduced to allergy foods when they start on solids at around 6 months. Introducing your baby to common allergy foods before they are 12 months may reduce their chances of developing allergies.

Food allergies affect about 1 in every 20 children. But they are more common in infants younger than 12 months, affecting about 1 child in every 10 in this age group. Your health professional can advise you on when and how to introduce foods that might cause allergies.

What is an allergen?

An allergen is a substance that triggers an allergic reaction in some people. Allergic reactions to foods have increased over recent years. Nobody fully understands why.

Most allergic reactions are not severe. Many children grow out of some food allergies although others may continue to be affected throughout their life.

What are allergy foods?

The most common foods that could cause an allergy are:

  • eggs
  • cow's milk
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, coconut, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts)
  • sesame seeds
  • soy
  • shellfish (including prawns, crab and lobster)
  • fish
  • wheat
  • lupin

Packaged foods must highlight any of these foods in their ingredients list. However, other foods can sometimes cause an allergic reaction too. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and seafood are most likely to last for life.

Are food allergy and food intolerance the same?

Food allergies and food intolerance are not the same — allergies involve the body's immune system whereas intolerance does not.

In someone with a food allergy, the body’s immune system reacts to the allergen as if it were foreign. The immune system then produces antibodies to fight the 'enemy' protein.

A doctor can arrange tests for various food allergies. Avoid unreliable tests. True food allergies can be serious and an accurate diagnosis is important.

A food intolerance is the body’s response to a substance in the food. The substance can be natural or added. The response, in someone with a food intolerance, may include headaches or stomach aches. Food intolerance is not life-threatening.

There are no specific tests for food intolerances.

When is the best time to introduce allergy foods?

The best time to introduce allergy foods is when you start introducing solids to your baby at about 6 months.

You can start by introducing a small amount of a type of food, then if there is no reaction, continue to give your baby that food as part of their regular diet.

It’s also best to try one type of food at a time to make it easier to identify what might cause a reaction.

Learn more here about how to introduce allergy foods.

Infant Feeding and Allergy Prevention Guidelines

The Infant Feeding and Allergy Prevention Guidelines have been developed by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy to help guide parents and health professionals on the best time to introduce allergy foods.

It was previously recommended that allergy foods shouldn’t be introduced until after 12 months. However, further studies and research have shown that it is better to do so from 6 months.

How can you tell if your child has an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction usually occurs within 30 minutes. Mild symptoms often include:

  • hives or red welts (bumps) on the skin
  • swelling of the lips, face or eyelids
  • red rash around the mouth where the food has touched the skin
  • tingling in the mouth
  • tummy pains
  • vomiting

If your baby does have a mild reaction to a certain type of food, don't give them that food again and see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Serious symptoms can indicate anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is rare, but is a medical emergency. Symptoms include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the tongue
  • tightness in the throat
  • a hoarse voice
  • cough or wheezing
  • collapsing or going 'floppy'

Anaphylaxis can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. If your child has any of the above symptoms, they require immediate and urgent action. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

More information

'Nip Allergies in the Bub' is an initiative from the National Allergy Strategy with the aim of providing information to both parents and health professionals.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

How to introduce allergy foods

You can gradually introduce allergy foods to your baby’s diet when they start on solids, at about 6 months. Learn more here about what to do if your child has a food allergy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Allergy - Food Allergies and Eczema | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Is food allergy the cause of eczema? No

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Allergy foods and diets

Allergy foods are foods and drinks which can cause of allergic reactions in children. Learn how to best introduce these types of foods your children and what to do if your child does have an allergic reaction.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Food allergy versus food intolerance - myDr.com.au

A food allergy is an immune response triggered by eating specific foods that cause certain well known symptoms to develop.

Read more on myDr website

The festive season - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Managing food allergies in the festive season

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Food Allergy - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Food allergy explained: what it is and how to manage

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Future Food Allergy Treatments - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Future Food Allergy Treatments

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Starting school with food allergies - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Starting school with food allergies

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Food Service - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

17 April 2013:Listen to an interview Maria gave recently with Hello FoodserviceWith the incidence of food allergy has doubled in the last decade. Food allergies are real and can be life threatening. 1 in 10 infants* now have food allergy and whilst many outgrow their allergy, those with peanut and tree nut allergy often have it for life. This means the incidence of adult allergy is rising.Although any food can cause an allergic reaction, the most common allergens are: egg; milk; peanuts; tre

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Food Allergy - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Food allergy occurs in around 1 in 10 infants* and in about 1 in 100 adults.The majority of food allergies in children are not severe, and will disappear with time.The most common triggers are hen's egg, cow's milk, peanuts and tree nuts.Less common triggers include seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat.Peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and seafood are the major triggers for life long allergies.Some food allergies can be severe, causing life threatening reactions known as anaphylaxi

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.