How Do I Prevent Food Allergies In My Baby?
Food allergies are on the rise, with an 18 percent increase in the US alone between 1997 and 2007. The latest survey of Canadian families showed that 8 percent reported at least one common food allergy, such as cow’s milk, peanut, soy, tree nuts, eggs, fish, wheat, shellfish and sesame. Moreover, parents or children with such allergies, especially peanut allergies, are more prone to atopy – a syndrome distinguished by the tendency to be hyperallergic.
A recent review of latest evidence proposes new strategies for primary physicians and family members with respect to food introduction and the prevention of food allergies.
Food Allergies – What We Knew And What We Know Now
A latest randomized controlled trial entitled ‘The Learning Early About Peanut’ (LEAP) study found that introducing high-risk children to the allergenic food earlier, reduced their risk of developing allergy by a significant 80 percent. However, such a methodology must only be adopted after thorough consultation with an allergist.
Nevertheless, in light of the results of this study, various groups including, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and the American Academy of Pediatrics now claim that for high-risk infants, strong evidence suggests the introduction of peanuts between the ages of four and 11 months.
“If parents want to know how to prevent food allergies in their children, we currently advise them to introduce allergenic foods when their children are at least four to six months old”, stated Drs. Elissa Abrams and Allan Becker, Department of Pediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“After an introduction to highly allergenic foods, regular exposure is crucial for the maintenance of tolerance – children should eat these foods regularly”.
Present Guidelines To Prevent Food Allergies In Children
Previous recommendations stated that potentially allergenic foods must be avoided till at least 12 to 36 months for high-risk babies. Consequently, some mothers avoided eating such foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding – current guidelines disregard the effectiveness of such ‘avoidance diets’.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:
- A new food should be introduced after every three to five days, prepared according to the age of the child to avoid choking
- Start with grains, followed by orange and yellow vegetables, and then fruit.
- Introduce any of the common allergenic foods, such as cow’s milk or eggs, moderately in small amounts. If well-tolerated, increase the quantity over several days
- Introduce any potential allergenic foods at home
“Much evidence suggests that avoidance of allergenic foods is not a preventive method for food allergies. In this new LEAP study, there is significant evidence suggesting that earlier introduction of peanuts is in fact preventive. Will this change the current guidelines on food introduction? Only time will tell”, conclude the authors. The potentially helpful review was published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).