Soy is one of the foods that can trigger allergies in babies (1). The immune system of those allergic to soy, considers an ingested soy product to be a pathogen. In response, the body releases proteins known as immunoglobulin E or IgE antibodies to fight the allergen (2). This ultimately leads to an allergic reaction.
Introduce soy to your baby after they are at least six months old. Make sure you are introducing the possible allergic foods one at a time and in small quantities. This helps you identify any reactions and relate them to the food the baby might have eaten.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the symptoms, causes, and management of soy allergy in babies.
Symptoms Of Soy Allergy In Babies
A baby allergic to soy can show the following symptoms on the consumption of soy products (3).
- Watery eyes
- Stomach cramps
- Itchiness of the skin
- Swelling of the tongue or lips
- Shortness of breath
- Repetitive cough
- Hoarse voice
Very rarely, soy allergy can cause an anaphylactic shock, where there is a sudden drop in blood pressure along with difficulty in breathing.
When To See A Doctor?
See a doctor immediately if the baby shows the following symptoms, which might indicate an anaphylactic reaction.
- The skin turning blue
- Difficulty in breathing
- Drooling or difficulty in swallowing
- Weak or extremely rapid pulse
- The body turning red and warm
Epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector can help relieve the conditions immediately. If your baby is confirmed to have a soy allergy, then the doctor may recommend you to keep an epinephrine auto-injector (epipen) handy.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Soy Allergy
It is not very clear as to why some people develop soy allergy. Research suggests that food allergy might be a result of a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Some factors increase the susceptibility to develop soy allergy (4).
- Babies, in general, are more prone to food allergies than adults.
- The presence of other food allergies and allergic conditions like eczema, asthma, hay fever, etc., increase the risk.
- Infants whose parents or siblings have soy allergy are more likely to have an allergy.
Diagnosis And Tests
There is no single method to identify the presence of soy allergy in babies. The doctor might employ the following methods (4).
- Elimination diet test: The doctor will suggest eliminating the suspected food item from the baby’s diet. For instance, if the baby consumes soy-based infant formula, then the doctor may suggest you to replace it with a standard formula. If the symptoms go away with no recurrence, then the doctor can conclude that the baby was allergic to soy. Elimination diet tests could involve multiple trials, thus it might take time to diagnose the allergy. However, this method is safe and non-invasive.
- Blood tests: It will check for the presence of food-specific antibodies in the blood to determine the presence of food allergy.
A skin prick test is performed in older children and adults to determine the presence of food allergies. The test involves injecting a small quantity of suspected allergen into the skin. If a bump develops at the spot of injection, then the allergy is confirmed.
This test may be risky for infants due to the required exposure to an allergen. Also, the bump at the site of injection can be uncomfortable. Therefore, the doctor might use a combination of elimination diet test and blood test to determine the presence of soy allergy in babies.
Treatment Of Soy Allergy
The treatment of soy allergy involves the management of anaphylactic shock and the long-term management of the allergy. The following medicines help in managing soy allergies in babies (5).
- Epinephrine: It is the first line of treatment. The doctor might suggest and train you on when and how to use the auto-injectable epinephrine for your baby’s allergy. There is no single universal dose of epinephrine. The amount of dosage required by the baby will depend on the intensity of their allergy and body weight. The pediatrician will recommend the exact dose and dosage.
- Antihistamines and corticosteroids: The doctor may suggest these medicines to treat mild cases, which do not require epinephrine.
If it is confirmed that your baby has a soy allergy, then they must avoid the following soy products for the long-term management of soy allergy (6).
- Soy-based infant formula
- Soy flour
- Soy milk and soy milk products, like soy milk yogurt
- Soybean starch and oil
- Cooked soybeans and soybean broth
- Soy sauce and other fermented soy products
The following are some packaged products that might contain soy or soy derivatives.
- Baked items like cookies, crackers, and cakes
- Canned broths and soups
- High-protein energy bars and snacks
- Peanut butter
- Vegetable sauces
- Soaps and moisturizers
It is good to check the ingredients mentioned on the label to determine the presence of soy.
Prevention Of Soy Allergy
It is difficult to prevent any food allergy. The following measures might help reduce the risk of soy allergy to a certain extent (7).
- Exclusively breastfeed the baby for the first four to six months, or use a hypoallergenic formula. Breast milk helps strengthen the immune system and might reduce the risk of allergies.
- Begin a solid diet at the age of six months by first introducing the baby to mild food items. Fruits like apples, pears, bananas, or vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash carrots or rice or oats may be introduced. Introduce one food item at a time and continue it for three to five days. It helps in identifying if the baby is allergic to any particular item.
- Highly allergic food items like soy, eggs, milk, peanuts, fish, etc., should be introduced only once you know that the baby tolerates mild food items well. It is good to consult a pediatrician before introducing foods that are considered allergic.
- If your baby has an allergy to another food, then consult a doctor before introducing soy. Discuss with the doctor about the quantity of soy that would be safe to introduce.
Soy allergy can be managed with the necessary precautions and awareness. A study done among 130 participants concluded that 50% of babies outgrow their allergy by the age of seven years (1).
Do you have any experience to sharea bout soy allergy? Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Jacob D. Kattan, Renata R. Cocco, and Kirsi M. Jarvinen, Milk and Soy Allergy; Pediatric Clinics of North America
3. Soy Allergy; American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
4. WHAT CAUSES FOOD ALLERGIES?; Food Allergy Research & Education
5. Epinephrine for First-aid Management of Anaphylaxis; Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics
6. SOY ALLERGY; Food Allergy Research & Education
7. PREVENTION OF ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA IN CHILDREN; American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology