Navigate Your Child’s Soy Allergy

By Robert Giesler, BSN, RN, RNC-NIC, RRT, CPST, RN Remedies nurse blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

rn-remedies-robert-thumbAllergies come from different sources such as dust, cats, soy, peanuts, etc. They are a major cause of illness in the U.S. Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have some type of allergy. Since allergies affect many families, I wanted to learn more and share information about soy allergy.

Soy Allergy

In many cases, soy allergy starts with a reaction to a soy-based infant formula. Although most children eventually outgrow a soy allergy, it can persist into adulthood. Often, signs and symptoms of soy allergy – such as hives or itching in the mouth – are mild. In rare cases, soy allergy can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

If you or your child has a reaction to soy, let their doctor know. Tests can help confirm a soy allergy. If you have a soy allergy, you’ll need to avoid products that contain soy. This can be difficult, however, as soy is found in many foods, such as meat products, bakery goods, chocolate and breakfast cereals.

Signs and Symptoms of Soy Allergy

Soy allergy symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Bloody stool (this is a common symptom from soy-based formula)
  • Hives, itching or itchy, scaly skin (eczema)
  • Redness of the skin (flushing)
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Wheezing, runny nose or trouble breathing

As mentioned above, soy allergy in infants often begins with the introduction of a soy-based formula. Soy allergy can develop when a child is switched to a soy-based formula after an allergic reaction to a milk-based formula.

Soy Hides in Many Foods

If your child is diagnosed with a soy allergy, it helps to know what food to avoid, because soy is a hidden ingredient in many household items, which include:

  • Edamame
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Shoyu sauce
  • Soy (soy albumin, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy milk, soy nuts, soy sprouts)
  • Soybean (curd, granules)
  • Soybean butter
  • Soy lecithin
  • Soy protein (concentrate, isolate)
  • Soy sauce, tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Tofu
  • Vegetable oil derived from soy

Food flavorings (natural and artificial) and prepared broths (including chicken, vegetable and bouillon) can also contain soy protein.

Your Child’s Soy-Free Lifestyle

The key to an allergy-free diet is to avoid giving your child the foods or products containing soy. If you are unsure about whether a specific product contains any food to which your child is allergic, check the ingredient label or contact the manufacturer of the food. Many food company websites offer a customer-service phone number and email.

Cross-contamination means that soy is not one of the intended ingredients, but might have contaminated a meal or other food items during preparation, production or packaging. Companies are not required to label for cross-contamination risk, though some voluntarily do. You might see advisory statements such as:

“May contain soy”

“Processed in a facility that also processes soy”

“Manufactured on equipment also used for soy”

Since products without precautionary statements also might be cross-contaminated and the company simply chose not to label for them, it is always best to contact the company to see if the product could contain soy.

It can be challenging and stressful to manage food allergies. To overcome the stress, it helps to have a good knowledge of foods to avoid, read labels and make sure to ask questions when you’re not 100 percent sure.

Robert shares tips on how to manage your child’s soy allergy while eating outside the home, at restaurants, school and parties at

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