Plump, juicy strawberries are chock full of vitamin C and fiber, but some young children can have an allergic reaction. There is some disagreement among experts as to when strawberries should be introduced into a child's diet. Some doctors and dietitians recommend waiting until children are at least a year old, especially if there is a history of food allergies in the family, while others may recommend six to 12 months or even 2 years of age. In any case, it is best to know the risks and symptoms of strawberry allergies before your child is given this food.
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Many experts disagree about when children can first eat strawberries. Registered dietitian Peggy O'Shea Kochenbach recommends waiting until children are at least 2 years old before feeding them strawberries for the first time. The website Wholesome Baby Food.com suggests children begin to eat strawberries between six and 12 months. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that foods can be started as early as 4 months of age, or 17 weeks, and that withholding allergenic foods, such as strawberries, until the child is older than six months offers no protective benefits. Introducing food before 17 weeks of age is associated with an increased risk of food allergies. If you are breastfeeding, the AAP recommends you continue breastfeeding while introducing solid foods. The AAP recommendations are published in the November 2013 issue of "Pediatrics."
About 8 percent of children have a food allergy, and more children than adults are allergic to strawberries. In some people, certain proteins in strawberries can trigger a reaction when the body's immune system releases histamines to fight what it perceives as a harmful substance. Children whose parents are allergic to strawberries may pass the allergy to their children, and children who have had reactions to other foods may be more likely to be allergic to strawberries, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Children allergic to strawberries will most commonly present symptoms such as tingling, itching or swelling in their mouth, lips, tongue or throat. Some children, particularly those allergic to ragweed or birch pollen, may also have watery, itchy eyes and sneezing, according to Beyond Allergy. Skin reactions, such as itching or hives, can also occur. Severe reactions, including vomiting, diarrhea and life-threatening anaphylactic shock, occur more rarely.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Any reaction to consuming strawberries should be reported immediately to your child's pediatrician because it is difficult to predict how severe the allergy may be. Strawberry allergies can be definitively diagnosed with a skin test at a pediatrician's or allergist's office. While it's easy to avoid eating strawberries themselves, ensuring your child does not eat products containing strawberries can be more difficult. Registered dietitian Franceen Friefeld warns that it is a myth that cooked strawberries, in such products as jams, do not cause allergic reactions.