Can Food Allergies Be Prevented?

Peanut allergy. Conceptual image.

You’ve probably heard that the occurrence of food allergies is on the rise. Between 1997 and 2007 there was an 18% increase in food allergies in children under 18 years old in the United States. But did you know that there are ways to help prevent food allergies in your little one? Here is the current advice from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Highly allergenic foods, such as dairy products, peanuts and tree nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, and fish and shellfish, can be introduced to the baby between four to six months of age in the same manner as other solid foods.
Introduce highly allergenic foods after other less allergenic foods have been fed and tolerated.
Introduce a new food every three to five days as appropriate for your infant’s developmental readiness to prevent choking.
Introduce highly allergenic foods at home rather than at day care or at a restaurant.
If there is no reaction, gradually increase the amount of the highly allergenic food.
Talk to your pediatrician before introducing highly allergenic foods for the following indications:
Your infant has had an allergic reaction to a food.
Your infant has a known food allergy.
You suspect that your infant has a food allergy.
Despite recommended treatment, your infant has moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (eczema).
Your infant’s sibling has a food allergy.
Your infant has had a positive blood test to a food or foods
Your pediatrician may want you to see an allergist or immunologist for an evaluation and an individualized plan for the introduction to highly allergenic foods.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed exciting results for parents who are concerned with food allergies. The study found that early introduction to a peanut product can significantly reduce the rate of peanut allergy in a high risk (meaning those with severe eczema and/or an egg allergy) group of infants. Based on the results of this study, several professional medical associations recognize that there is strong evidence supporting the introduction of peanut product between four and eleven months of age in high-risk infants. More formal guidelines on the feeding of a peanut product to infants are set to be published within the coming year.

With previous guidelines advising parents wait to give highly allergenic foods until 12 to 36 months in children at high risk, this is exciting information, especially for parents who are introducing the world of solid foods to their precious babies.

By Nicole Flanagan

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