Food Allergies vs Atopy

Congratulations! You are now at one of the most exciting milestones in your baby’s development, introducing solid food. However, weaning is as risky as it is exciting. This is especially because everything that your baby is having now has it for the first time and you are not sure how they will react to it. 

Food allergies and atopy are some of the risks that your child is exposed to when you introduce solid food. Though the two conditions are assumed to be similar, they do have some differences that you should understand to help tell which your child is suffering from. 

Here is more information about food allergies and atopy and how you can manage them.

What Are Food Allergies?

Food allergies occur when food consumed is perceived as harmful by the immune system. When your baby eats food that they are allergic to, their bodies respond by producing antibodies that fight what they assume is harmful. As a result, you will realize some signs of an allergic reaction. Some of these include:

  • Swelling of the arms, legs or face 
  • Trouble when breathing 
  • Redness around the nose or mouth 
  • Itchy skin 
  • Coughing 
  • Wheezing 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Running nose 
  • Fainting 

Learn more about food allergies here

What Is Atopy?

Atopy refers to the tendency of developing allergic diseases such as asthma, dermatitis, allergic rhinitis etc. It is common for children with heightened immune responses to allergens and especially food and inhaled allergens. 

Some of these signs could also be an indication of atopy in your child:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Redness of the eyes 
  • Sneezing 
  • Scaling, hives, welts, among other skin irritations 
  • Swelling and sinus pain

Causes of Atopy

Atopy is caused by two main factors. These are:

  • Genetics– in case there is a genetic history of atopy in your family, then your child is likely to suffer from the same. The genetic risks will then react to a trigger in the environment. 
  • Environment– high exposure to environmental agents that trigger atopy will result in atopy to your child even if they have no genetic history of it. Some of these environmental triggers such as dust, mould, pollen, and animal dander among others. 

How to Avoid Food Allergies and Atopy in Children

Ideally, understanding foods that your child is allergic to is easier said than done. However, it is possible for you as the parent to help prevent food allergies by understanding and differentiating those that will disappear over time from those that are life long. Foods that cause allergies which your child can outgrow include: 

  • Eggs 
  • Milk
  • Wheat 
  • Soy

Foods that could cause life-long allergies include:

  • Fish
  • Nuts

Other ways through which you could prevent food allergies are such as:

  • Treatment– though it is not possible to treat allergies, certain medications could help control them, especially in cases of atopy. Treatment may also be required when the allergic reactions are severe. 
  • Breastfeeding– before you introduce your baby to any solid food, ensure that you breastfeed them exclusively for about 4 to 6 months. This helps avoid allergies such as milk allergies.
  • Avoid environmental triggers– as stated above, atopy could be as a result of inhaling substances from the environment. Ensure that you keep your child off such factors to avoid atopy. 

More often than not, mothers assume that the foods they take when they are pregnant, or breastfeeding affect the allergies of the baby. However, the food you eat has nothing to do with your baby’s food allergy. In case you are concerned about introducing a certain allergen food to your child, consult your doctor for the best advice. 


#Please note that development differs from one child to another

#Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: nhs, marchofdimes, unlockfood, webmd, babycentre, verywellhealth, jamanetwork

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